The Dutch municipality of Arnhem wants to increase its use of free and open source solutions, says Martijn Leisink, municipal executive councillor responsible for ICT. The primary aim is to replace proprietary server solutions by open source alternatives. Getting rid of IT vendor lock-in on the desktop workstations will be difficult, and is deferred until later.
“We want to lower the costs of ICT, and open source is one of the ways to reach that goal”, alderman Leisink says. According to him, the city has been preparing the groundwork to overhaul server operating systems and server applications. “It is wise to invest in an IT architecture that is less dependent on IT vendors.”
The alderman especially appreciates the security and flexibility that open source provides. On the other hand, he says, the city’s IT organisation has little experience with open source tools. “Five years ago, the city was completely focussed on one single vendor.”
Scrapped, or perhaps not
Last year, Arnhem scrapped plans for a pilot with LibreOffice, an alternative for the ubiquitous proprietary suite of office productivity tools. According to the head of the city’s IT department, the city was threatened with a fine for unlicensed proprietary office software, which it avoided by buying new licences worth EUR 600,000, purchased using an existing framework agreement.
Alderman Leisink acknowledges that the city’s desktops are locked-in, as its municipal applications depend on the ubiquitous proprietary office suite. “We’re trying to get our integrator to support LibreOffice. We’re also preparing to get rid of all the proprietary document macros and templates, that tie us to a single vendor. But this will take time.”
The alderman now says he would like Apache OpenOffice or LibreOffice installed on all workstations. “If, three years from now, we want to switch, our civil servants will have had three years to try out the alternative.” Similarly, the city has alternative web browsers installed on all desktops, including Mozilla’s Firefox.
Leisink, holding one phd in Computer Science, Physics and Math, wants the IT department to explicitly consider open source. “It is more secure and many times better than the usual proprietary software. But getting rid of the latter will be quite a battle.” He points out that the town’s workstations already run the SUSE Linux operating system, loading a proprietary desktop from a central server. “That makes working at home or at the office the same thing for the user.”
In December, the Dutch Minister of the Interior responded to questions by the Parliament about the proprietary office licences in the city. Contradicting the town’s head of IT, the minister wrote that Arnhem was not forced to renew its proprietary office licences. The city of Arnhem had inadequately licensed the software used by the town’s civil servant’s working from home, the minister replied. “This became apparent in consultation with the vendor, and was corrected. No penalty was imposed.”