Finland's ministry of Justice, its state legal aid offices, the court houses, the probation services and its prisons offer scientific proof of the advantages of open source and open standards. Martti Karjalainen, who studied one of Europe's largest open source transitions, concludes that a large-scale migration to an open source office suite is feasible, resulting in substantial benefits, including cost savings.
Karjalainen, chief system analyst at the ministry, received his doctorate degree on 15 October, based on his dissertation on the migration by the Finnish ministry of Justice to OpenOffice, an open source suite of office productivity tools, and ODF, an open standard for office documents.
The Finnish ministry is using OpenOffice and ODF since 2007. Karjalainen in his thesis compares in great detail the costs of two proprietary office solutions and the open source alternative, including a break down of the kind of problems users reported at the IT help desk.
His study shows that switching to open source results in considerable savings, even when including the costs for licensing, maintenance and training, over a period of six years. The migration ultimately took 1.9 million Euro, less than one-third of the switch to the most often used proprietary solution (6.8 million). "The 'economic efficiency' of OpenOffice.org is impressive," writes Karjalainen.
On average, one day of training is enough for most users, Karjalainen shows, using data from the sixteen pilots and 523 user trainings given by the ministry and following comparisons with other public administrations using OpenOffice, from across the EU.
Switching to OpenOffice and ODF required changes to be made to 3100 document templates including those for legal forms, court documents, letters, presentations and faxes. The system analyst recommends that IT staff respond immediately to questions and suggestions from users.
Karjalainen concludes that open source changes the organisational innovation process. Because the licenses of this type of software are free, it is possible to install the software before the problem analysis has been completed. "The possibility for an early installation may emerge, for instance in situations where a large amount of workstations are purchased or re-installed during the analysis period. This means the building of the business case and the pilot phase merge with implementation activities."
To avoid problems, the chief system analyst urges to combine such an installation "with training activities to support users willing to try out the new software".
The IT environment of the ministry encompasses about 12000 workstations. The Justice ministry employs close to ten thousand people. Apart from 250 civil workers at the ministry in Helsinki, these civil administrators work in some three hundred offices throughout the country, in offices for courts, prosecution, enforcement, State legal aid, public guardianship services, prison service and probation service.
NOiV news item on the Finnish migration (in Dutch)