The city of Rome (Italy) is taking well-orchestrated steps to increase its use of free and open source software, aiming to reduce lock-in to IT vendors. A key change is an overhaul of the way IT solutions and support services are contracted; in all future contracts, Rome will require IT service providers to help the city switch to alternatives to proprietary software.
This means change is coming soon. Many of the current IT contracts will need to be renewed next year, and by 2020 all current contracts will have been renewed, says Cecilia Colasanti, who works for Rome’s city councillor for Digital Innovation.
Earlier this year, the city completed an inventory of all server-based solutions and desktop applications in use, to help prepare a solution-by-solution, step-by-step switch to open source. Application and contract managers will be made responsible for making sure that IT vendors and service suppliers come up with alternatives, and suggest the best approach. “This task will make clear the problem of IT vendor lock-in”, Ms Colasanti says. “Increasing this awareness is one of the most-important steps.”
Not to rest on its laurels, Rome is already installing the LibreOffice on all of its 14,000 PC workstations across the city. Each night, the open source office productivity suite is installed on 100 workstations. City staff can choose to use LibreOffice, or continue with the ubiquitous proprietary office suite. In addition, with the help of the proprietary office vendor, the IT department is measuring actual usage of office productivity tools. Those that hardly ever use one of the office components, will be nudged to switch to LibreOffice first.
Switching to LibreOffice will not be forced upon those who use the proprietary suite intensively. “We know that changing tools can create intense resistance. This will take time”, Ms Colasanti acknowledges.
In 2018, Rome will run a pilot to test the use of workstations running Linux. Some of the IT support staff already have much experience with Linux servers and workstations, which should help resolve possible issues with network drives, shared folders and peripherals such as printers.
Rome’s IT department is supporting the city council’s wish to get rid of IT vendor lock-in, says Ms Colasanti, “We are working together closely, for without their support, change won’t happen.”
Commencement of the switch to open source was announced by the city in early September. "Currently, about one-third of our IT spending is distributed among just six IT vendors, some of which have been operating within the administration for more than three decades", the announcement quotes Councillor Flavia Marzano as saying. "Our choice to implement free software intends to end the oligarchy in this industry.”
Rome’s city council decided to switch to open source in October 2016.