Municipalities, health organisations and provincial public administrations across the Italian province of South Tyrol will be switching to free and open source office solutions, motivated by the cost savings, which will help to avoid staff redundancies. This year, migrations to the LibreOffice office productivity suite already saved half a million euro. The province reckons the switch will save a further one million per year, starting in 2014.
Erwin Pfeifer and Paolo Dongilli, working for the IT department of the province, presented on the switch to open source in South Tyrol in a workshop last week in the town hall of Milan, Italy. That meeting was organised in parallel with the LibreOffice 2013 conference, which also took place in that city.
Lead by example
Several public administrations in the province have already switched to open source office suites, paving the way for others, the two said. In 2003 the Association of Municipalities of South Tyrol's began by installing a precursor to LibreOffice on some of their workstations. Last year the association implemented LibreOffice on all 4200 workstations.
In 2004 the provincial administration itself did the same, installing it on all 7500 workstations. A year later, Italian schools in the province of all levels began exclusively using free software for teaching, switching some 3300 PCs to free and open source.
And in 2012, the 'Comprensorio Sanitario di Bolzano', one of the district's health organisations, started switching 2500 workstations to LibreOffice.
"These migrations took place not because of ethics, national laws or procurement rules. It was not in order to help local ICT service providers, or because of a decision to exchange electronic documents stored in the Open Document Format", said Pfeifer and Dongilli. "The best motivation was the provincial administration's announcement of plans to reduce staff costs by some 16 million euro."
Protests by trade unions and civil servants resulted in a plan to find alternative sources of savings. Switching to open source was identified as one of the ways to reduce costs and avoid layoffs.
A group of experts drafted a plan for the migration, accepted by the province in April this year. It sets Open Document Format ODF as the default electronic document format for exchanging documents within the South Tyrol public administrations, and foresees a gradual switch to LibreOffice of all public administrations over the next three years. In June, the province revised the plan, to include involving local ICT service providers, that will help the Province, health organisations and municipalities with their migration to LibreOffice.
The province also decided to start a LibreOffice competence centre, to become a reference point for all matters relating to the use, extension and management of LibreOffice. The centre will focus on the provincial administration, the municipalities and the health organisations. "This centre should facilitate collaboration, and serve as a point of contact with local companies."
"A positive side-effect of this plan, is that we're now creating a centralised service to manage automatic ODF document creation, combining data and existing templates. We would also like to re-use or extend Wollmux, developed by the IT department of the German city of Munich."
The province has reserved a three-year 2,7 million euro budget for the plan.
Presentation by Dongilli and Pfeifer (Slideshare)