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SEARCH’s Came emphasized that progress on common open standards also has enabled the OJBC’s usage of open source tools. “There’s really not a whole lot of difference between incident reports from Hawaii to Maine to Vermont to Florida to Alaska,” he said. “Recognizing that, we can reuse those integration components even if a prosecution case management system vendor is different from state to state; there’s still a lot of reuse you can get there.”

While success stories about open source use in the public sector are becoming more common, governments continue to struggle with staffing given the complexity of technical capabilities needed to implement common standards and integrate these solutions into an organization’s IT environment. Recruiting staff with these highly specialized skills can be a tough sell budget-wise too, Came said.

The shared services model utilized by the OJBC, where technical expertise and staffing is shared as needed, is a solution that’s making the option viable for the participating states. The cost for accessing the consortium’s resources is $85,000 in yearly dues, “currently comparable to typical annual maintenance fees for proprietary/commercial enterprise service bus platforms,” according to the OJBC’s website. Membership comes with the added benefit of components that conform to existing standards that govern sharing of criminal justice data — functionality not typically included in an open source solution.

The OJBC members, through a board of directors, set priorities for staff. At the same time, each member is free to work on projects of their choice. The idea is that if a member finishes a new information exchange component, that product is added back into the consortium’s open platform, where other members can further modify it for their own use.

Came expects 2013 to be a year of growth for the OJBC. Several other states have expressed interest in becoming part of the consortium.

“I just think it’s really important for state and local governments to look for opportunities like this to share services and capabilities,” Came said. “It’s the only way we’re going to be able to move forward and do the things that our citizens are expecting.”

 

Photo of Honolulu firefighter courtesy of Flickr/Mathew Ursua

Noelle Knell Editor

Government Technology editor Noelle Knell has more than 15 years of writing and editing experience, covering public projects, transportation, business and technology. A California native, she has worked in both state and local government, and is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, with majors in political science and American history. She can be reached via email and on Twitter.

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