dinsdag 11 september 2012

Now politics must focus on results with open source software

Chances to save millions, but with talking alone you won't get that far
My previous two blogs pointed out that when public administrations make a combined investment in open source software, migrating will become easier, that they themselves profit as well as all other (government) users will do. Governments from Germany and Switzerland already do so.
In The Netherlands municipalities can save millions of Euro's each year, with open source office software alone.
Now tomorrow, September 12, we have national elections in the Netherlands. In relation to that the topic open source has, as far as I've noticed, been touched by the parties GroenLinks and SP. Besides that, also the party PvdA mentions it and of course it's important for the Piratenpartij. [1]
The past has shown that for the most parties open source software (and open standards) are important. But how useful is 'attention'? It would be really helpful if the new Tweede Kamer (parliament) would come to agreement rapidly for a strong approach, specific, for e.g. the open source desktop. That would be a strong follow-up for the talk- and information-programs that we had in the last decade, that, lets be honest, just were to weak to help creating a clear turn around. Just explaining will not easily create enough power to counterweight multinationals, that also have close connections to large national companies..
A clear and strong approach – public bodies from Germany and Switzerland make a good example – will help the existing situation to change a bit faster, to make more advantage of the benefits of open source. Also it will prepare the path for those municipalities and provinces that have a less progressive attitude. We do have those too in The Netherlands, as is shown in a recent example about governments that bind themselves too easy in expensive contracts. This while the costs for ICT in municipalities rise.
In the previous article I counted that in Dutch municipalities alone millions can be saved each year with open source office software. Which as bonus will free you from cumbersome relations with vendors that tend to change license contracts (read costs) in their own favor. Also expenses for changes and improvements to the software, will result in work in the region, which is quite different from sending checks to a large company in a distant country.
Cooperation, bundling of forces, great software, paying what is needed and nothing more, freedom of choice – that is open source!

maandag 10 september 2012

Netherlands must make sound investment in open source desktop

Millions to be saved each year with the use of open source office-software
In the previous article I wrote about administrations in Germany and Switzerland that invest in open source software. In a combined project they improve interoperability of LibreOffice and OpenOffice with the latest file formats of Microsoft Office. These administrations almost literally put their hands at work in the important field of open source software. What can I write about the situation at Dutch administrations in this field? The use of open source software in Dutch municipalities can be seen in various parts. At the backside it is done in the form of servers and management systems for websites. And on the desktop one sees Firefox and Zarafa, that is increasingly gaining popularity as Exchange/Outlook replacer.
The use of open source office software is not yet widely spread and it grows slowly. It's exactly this that I want to look at further. Because of my own profession in Nou&Off, my involvement with The Document Foundation, the home of LibreOffice. And also because the previous article was just about that: open source office software, where big gains can be met in terms of freedom, control and cost savings. This is again supported by the situation in Munich, where the large scale switch to an open source desktop has resulted in a more robust system and saves millions.
In The Netherlands OpenOffice and LibreOffice are used for years in mostly some smaller municipalities. The number of municipalities is more then 400. With all together around 112.000 employees (7 per 1000). When the use of Ms Office costs € 100,- per person per year, then that's per year € 11.200.000 for licenses. Say 10 million every year.
So here we have a large potential for savings. Now it would be stupid to suggest that the full 10 million can be saved. Be it alone for the fact that larger organizations are likely to have a support contract for LibreOffice, which can be paid with a part of the savings on licenses. And of course a migration also asks some effort. It's positive that nowadays about all larger applications for local administrations can work together very well with OpenOffice and LibreOffice. Thanks to the efforts of suppliers (and those pushing them a bit...) most of the issues that occurred in the past, have been solved. There will be smaller areas where a migration will cost unreasonable effort or money, for example because a specific application is not yet changed. So it's not possible to get rid of all licences right away. But the large majority of users can work happily and effectively with Open- or LibreOffice. That is demonstrated by the administrations already using it and those that are about to change soon. In other countries there's also a growing number of authorities that make the change to LibreOffice. Some recent announcements:
French administrations, City of Largo, the Spanish Las Palmas, de the Itallian region Umbria, the Portuguese village Vieira do Minho, het Danish ministery of transport, the Irish Limerick, the Village Pillea-Hartiatis in Greece.
In my opinion its due time for a larger movement in The Netherlands. For years we have had the national projects OSOSS en NOiV, that made excellent information and education, but alas were not focused on concrete action. And of course that is needed: open source is about action. Even more, about joining in action. To speed up a larger movement, a project of for example a number of municipalities could be great. Municipalities where the introduction of new office software is coming near and that can make enough room for that in the agendas. A project with a specific task, to improve the areas in which the migration to a new office software is not so easy yet. And this is something very worth investing in.
You may remember from the previous article, that it was about an investment of € 140.000. With potential savings of many millions every year for the Dutch municipalities, in office software licenses only, amounts in this order are peanuts. Of course not for individual administrations. Maybe therefore the national authorities should step in to bundle the funding. In this way, wanted contributions to for example LibreOffice can be set up together, just as we have seen in the example of the German and Swiss authorities. This is what is made possible by a mutual project: a faster transition. But there are other benefits. Such as a clear point of contact for other software suppliers. And that partners can share information and know they do not stand alone.
Much can be won in terms of freedom, durability and costs. Don't forget that for a smaller community savings of say € 15.000 to 20.000 a year are very relevant. With amounts in this magnitude for example many local activities and charities can be supported. You may know the examples in your own area.
To summarize: if with bundled forces we can realize a faster transition to open source office software in The Netherlands too, it's possible to save a considerable amount of the yearly 10 million costs for the Microsoft office licenses, and more own ideas and control can be realized.

woensdag 5 september 2012

Governments invest in open source

Just before the start of the vacations the news was published about several public administrations make a strong investment in open source software. A project was started to improve the interoperability of LibreOffice and OpenOffice with the latest file formats of Microsoft Office. [1] The parties involved invest a sum of 140.000 Euro in the project.

That is what open source really is about: as user of a product you can support the development of features that are important for you. Simple, direct. The products quality growths and the value increases too, also for other users. It's logic that administrations too invest in this way in the quality of their tools.

The project that we talk about here, is about improving the interoperability. Important, because a insufficient interoperability is a source of frustration and limited freedom. [2], [3] More freedom in the use of office software is extra important, because that opens the doors to use open source for the desktop.

Open source is about freedom of choice and control of processes and content, about ownership of information. Smart organizations, and in any case public bodies, take that well into account. The administrations in this specific case, that invest in Open- en LibreOffice, are the German cities of Munich, Freiburg im Breisgau and Jena, together with the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, the Swiss Federal IT Steering Unit (FITSU) and the canton of Waadt. So there are no Dutch administrations involved in this example... Food for thought? In any case food for a next article, to be published here soon. (And of course before the elections next week ;-) )