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.

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