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Bologna achieves vendor independence for its office applications

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The administration of the Italian city of Bologna has almost completed its move to OpenOffice. Most of the 3600 PCs now run this open source suite of office applications. The administration is planning to move more applications to open source, aiming to become less dependent on specific IT vendors.

This municipality started its first open source pilot in 2004. It now plans to include free and open source software in all parts of its IT infrastructure, and says this will result in significant cost savings.

"We spent 570,000 euro on proprietary software licences in 2006. Next year, however, we expect to save some 160,000 euro ", says Massimo Carnevali, IT manager of the municipality. This is not just because of moving to OpenOffice, he adds. Bologna also saved by replacing for instance proprietary photography software with the open source alternative Gimp.

Carnevali was one of the speakers at the LinuxDay conference in Bologna on 26 October. He also presented at the OpenOffice conference in Orvieto last month.

In both presentations, he outlined Bologna's free and open source strategy. Apart from vendor independence and cost savings, the important goals are to increase cooperation with other  public administrations, to reuse software that is developed by other public bodies and to make sure the municipality's data will always be accessible by moving to open document standards.

"This is not just about saving money", adds Sergio Lo Giudice, leader of the local Democratic party (PD). "We also see this as a way to build lasting relationships with small and medium sized business in the region."

The move to OpenOffice is considered a strategic step, preparing the way for the city to now also use this type of software for other desktop client applications. "A decisive role for this project was played by our university", says Carnivali. "They helped us to develop trainee positions, they collaborated in pilots and research, and they attracted many of the local free software IT professionals."

Guidance

Another key aspect to the success of the project is the guidance to users, explained Bologna's IT manager. The city took time to explain the importance of this migration. Combined with training this helped the city's civil administrators to adapt to their new IT environment.

Bologna's IT department now wants to get rid of the final software constraints that for a handful of PCs cannot yet use OpenOffice. "Once that is done, we will switch to using the Open Document Format ODF as our document standard. After that we will begin working in moving our proprietary ERP application to GNU/Linux servers. Next on our todo-list is the migration of our intranet to the open source portal software Liferay."

More information:

Republica news item (in Italian)

Summary of Carnevali's presentation on the OpenOffice conference

Carnevali's Linuxday Presentation (ODP)