The use of free and open source software solutions for office productivity and for desktop PCs is second nature to those working for the town of Lemi in Finland. The administration has been using the vendor independent IT solutions for a decade. Safer, easier and cheaper, reports the town's treasurer.
"We used to have a page on the town's website, to introduce Lemi's use of Linux. But since open source is a matter of course, I removed this text from the site in March", begins Pentti Pitkänen, the town's treasurer.
Lemi is a rural municipality with about 3000 inhabitants and the town's administration is correspondingly small. Between six to ten of the civil servants now use Linux desktops and OpenOffice is used by nearly all of the 15 to 20 staffers, including most part timers. On some workstations there is also a proprietary office suite installed. This smooths the transition for new or short-term staffers. "There is hardly any visible difference, but it helps some users that are too accustomed to the proprietary office."
Town hall, school and library
Lemi took its first open source steps in late 2003 when it selected OpenOffice as the default office suite. That year it had also started using Linux for one of the administration's workstations and in the local library, offering public Internet access. A few months after, the town acquired its first three Linux servers. Having tried out several Linux distributions over the years, all of Lemi's Linux computers are now running Debian, including the server used by the local school.
The Library PC proved important, recalls the town accountant. The library previously used a ubiquitous proprietary system and that required too much maintenance. "Users would change settings and we kept on having to reinstall the operating system in order to correct things. That stopped once we switched to Linux. Visitors continue to use this system to this day."
It paved the road for switching the whole administration. "It is a solution that reduces the need for IT maintenance, is easy to upgrade and allows central management of applications on all workstations", Pitkänen says. "Improved IT security is a major factor and all things considered, this solution is to be cheaper to purchase and to implement."
This July, Lemi's IT administrator Markus Taipale will upgrade all of Lemi's Linux machines to the most recent version of Debian. The town will also switch from OpenOffice to LibreOffice. "LibreOffice is better at handling the proprietary documents we exchange with other municipalities. And it is included in the Debian distribution, making it easier to manage and update."