The European Commission's central information service, Europe Direct, is mainly relying on open source tools. Over the past years, the firm running the call centre on behalf of the EC, replaced many proprietary software applications with open source alternatives.
Europe Direct is a central information service reachable by phone or the Internet. It provides local information services in every EU country. It can be reached in any of the 23 official languages of the EU.
"When we started running the EC's contact information centre, four and half years ago, we used mostly proprietary tools. But we began replacing them one by one almost immediately", explains project manager of the private company, Xavier Cobbaert. "A big advantage of this kind of software is that it strictly adheres to standards. That helps when integrating a wide range of components and tools."
Very recently it renewed the telephone infrastructure. It already uses Asterisk, an open source telephone implementation. The private company that runs the call centre of Europe Direct asked a VoIP (Voice over IP) system integrator specialist to build a new Asterisk cluster. All telephone services are now implemented twice, so even when components or connections fail, the system keeps operating.
The contact centre uses several of the management tools that have been developed especially for Asterisk implementations. Examples include SafiServer and Xivo, tools that ease the configuration and management of Asterisk.
The contact centre keeps its data in databases stored in the open source database management system MySQL. This is running on servers using Debian Linux.
Cobbaert says his company relies on many other open source components, both for building and for running the web application that tracks calls and all other requests for information. "On average, we handle some seven to eight hundred calls per week, and the system performs really well."
Using open source makes it a lot easier for the company to hand over the data to the EC at the end of the contract, Cobbaert says. "The EC in its contract stipulated that it wants all the information that we gathered. To make such a data transfer feasible, they require very detailed technical descriptions of all the IT systems. Open source makes this a lot simpler: if the EC wanted to, they could simply take the same applications, and then use the data we're supplying."
The private company is also considering making available as open source its web application for managing the information requests.