The Estonian ministry of the Environment has saved millions of Euro over the past ten years by using the open source suite of office application, OpenOffice, says Meelis Merilo, the head of the IT departent at the ministry.
Using the open source costed the ministry no more than 64.000 Euro over the past ten years, being simply the annual budget for training users. Had it continued to use a proprietary office suite, the costs for purchasing or renting proprietary software licences and user training would have ranged between 1.4 and 2.8 million Euro, Merilo showed in a presentation at the Latvian Open Technology Association (LATA), a trade organisation, on 18 January in Latvia's capital Riga.
Merilo is able to compare the costs for the two office alternatives, for the Estonian ministry used both in parallel for several years. The IT department manages PC workstations for about 1600 employees in the ministry and its agencies across the country. It began a three-year migration proces to replace the proprietary office suite by the open source alternative in 2001.
Apart from the savings on licences, the use of the open source office suite internally reduced issues in exchanging documents. "There still occur some problems when exchanging documents with other government organisations."
One of the arguments to move to an open source system, said Merilo, is that the ministry needs to preserve many of its files for up to fifteen years and longer. "The document has to be saved in a format which is open, standarised and accessible to everybody, to guarantee that all software producers are able to support the document equally."
Also, he said, when communicating with others, a document format should be used that does not force anyone to use a product from only a single vendor. "That is why in Estonia, we use ODF and PDF to exchange documents, and XML, HTML, PNG and SVG for disseminating information on the Internet."
"By spending on open source system development, public administrations support local businesses and build-up an vendor-independent IT system. This increases quality and interoperability."
Merilo's presentation (pdf)