Italian proponents of the use of free and open source software by public administrations are protesting a decision by the town of Pesaro to switch from using OpenOffice to a proprietary cloud-based office solution. They say the city has garbled the cost calculations and omitted a required software assessment study.
The move to the proprietary cloud-based office solution was announced in a press release by the vendor, published on 23 June. The vendor argues that the use of OpenOffice had resulted in higher than anticipated support costs and loss of productivity, and says that its office solution is cheaper.
In December, the city published a tender, directly requesting licences of a proprietary, cloud-based office solution. According to city council documents, the request failed to get any response, after which Pesaro directly awarded a contract. The documents explain that this is allowed for amounts lower than EUR 40,000.
At the same time, the city council was informed about problems related to the 2010 transition to OpenOffice, an alternative, open source suite of office productivity tools.
The city explains that this transition was never completed. Several users continued to use outdated versions of the proprietary office suite, resulting in a time-wasting mix of document formats. The city says OpenOffice was slow to open documents, particular documents on the Internet. Pesaro also reports document interoperability problems, including text formatting and difficulties with spreadsheets and links to a database system included in the proprietary office suite.
These interoperability problems had caused “considerable inconvenience and loss of time”, Pesaro writes.
Advocates of the use of free and open source software by public administrations decry the city’s decision. Pesaro has lost control over its infrastructure, and is further locking itself in to proprietary software, writes Paolo Vecchi, CEO of Omnis, a UK-based provider of IT services, in a report on Tech Economy, an Italian IT news site. A well-organised migration to LibreOffice, closely related to OpenOffice, will over time save Pesaro lots of money, he writes.
“Pesaro invented the EUR 300,000 cost of OpenOffice” says Vecchi. “They have the courage to say OpenOffice does not suit them, while ignoring the recommendations and the plans provided by the company that supported the software.”
The town failed to do the required comparison of the cloud-based office suite with free and open source software alternatives, warns Sonia Montegiove, an IT analyst working for the province of Perugia. In a separate post on Tech Economy, she criticises the costs calculations used by the proprietary vendor and the city, and argues the town should have done a better job in solving interoperability problems.
Contacted by phone, the city referred all questions to the town’s IT manager. He however, has not responded repeated phone calls and emails. A message to the town’s mayor also went unanswered so far.