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Leipzig is switching to open source office suites

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The German city of Leipzig is switching to using open source suites of office productivity tools: Apache OpenOffice and LibreOffice. It expects that in the first five years the anticipated savings will be swallowed by the exit costs associated with the proprietary software used by the city. Starting in 2017, however, the city expects to lower its IT costs by some 100,000 euro, says Lars Greifzu, responsible for marketing and sales at Lecos, the city-owned IT service provider.

Greifzu was one of the speakers at a workshop on open source in public administration, organised by the Major Cities of Europe association, which took place in Dublin on 17 January.

The city began its switch to the open source office suites in 2012, following political debates. The Leipzig administration will increasingly turn to free and open source, Greifzu said, as the city's politicians object to the cost of proprietary software licences, and want to get rid of IT vendor lock-in.

Model licence

However, according to Greifzu's presentation, a second motivation for Leipzig to switch to LibreOffice and Apache OpenOffice was a licence audit in 2010 by the IT vendor of the ubiquitous proprietary office suite. The IT vendor did not accept the licences registered and used by Lecos, and forced Lecos to pay a very high fine. "It seems that the licence model of the big software firms is aimed at raising turnover and profit", Greifzu said in Dublin. "Worldwide, there are only a handful of persons that can understand and perhaps explain the licence rules."

Together with the switch to open source office suites, the city made the Open Document Format (ODF) the default for internal document processes. "We're asking contractors and partners to also use ODF", Greifzu said. "However, there are many instances where the city administration is required to supply information in a proprietary format. That includes federal government and municipalities that use proprietary solutions."

Mixed results

It is planned that the switch to open source office suites will take about three years, excluding a 18 month preparation. As of January 2014, the open source office suites are in use on 2792 of the city's 4300 workstations. The proprietary office suite remains on less than 35 per cent of the workstations and 888 PCs have both a proprietary and open source office suite installed. Greifzu forecasts that the project will be completed on time, and that 32 per cent of all workstations will continue to use some proprietary office components.

The switch to open source office alternatives is hampered by internal and external document interoperability issues. The city itself uses other software applications that are tied to the usual proprietary office suite, including its citizen registration system and several applications used in the city's public healthcare department, the city's engineering department and the department managing public sport facilities. Several of the city's service providers and even the federal government require electronic documents to be created using a proprietary office suite.

Less effort

According to Greifzu, it takes less effort to train users to switch to Open Office or Libre Office than teaching users to switch to a recent version of the proprietary office suite. "Meanwhile, the daily user support efforts have hardly changed."

Other open source applications installed on workstations include Firefox, PDF Creator, 7-Zip, Filezilla, GIMP and Cygwin/XFree86.

The Leipzig IT department was turned in to a government-owned company in 2001. The firm now services many more municipalities, mainly in the federal state of Saxony.

 

More information:

Leipzig's progress to OpenOffice featured on the blog of the city of Munich's IT department (in German)
Pro Linux news item (in German)
Linux Magazin news item (in German)
Leipzig Internet Zeiting news item (in German)