Habits and anxieties are holding back public administrations from switching to free software, says Tivadar Karay, head of the IT department of the 18th district of Budapest. The district commonly uses this type of ICT solutions, and has been for the past five years: "For pretty much everything, there is an open source alternative. Fear is unnecessary."
Karay was one of the presenters at the conference organised by the country's open source resource centre, which took place in Budapest last week.
The city district administration uses the Linux operating system, to run 9 out of its 12 servers. Of the 200 workstations in use in the district's offices, 40 are running Linux. LibreOffice is used on all 200 workstations.
The preference for open source is supported by the city's management, yet it is not made mandatory, Karay explained at the conference. It is easier if this happens voluntarily.
Implementing LibreOffice was not too difficult, nor did it require a lot of training. For the IT department, one of the added benefits is that the office suite and its menus are easily managed centrally, including across proprietary and open source operating systems. "Having used the office suite for five years now, we now know nearly all tricks, and that helps overcome issues with document in incompatible electronic formats."
The Budapest district feels its move to vendor-independent IT solutions is supported by government decisions such as a 2011 law supporting the Open Document Format (ODF). "We always use ODF, even in our e-mails." However, even though the country's state agencies are officially supposed to support ODF, the electronic document format is not accepted everywhere. "We have to force it."
The city also draws support from other European public administrations and their policies. In his talk, Karay pointed to the UK government's preference for open source ICT solutions, for operating systems, web servers, databases and programming languages. "Naturally, not all ICT solutions will be implementable using only open source, but the advantages of this type of software is clear."