The IT department of the Finnish city of Tampere will try out OpenOffice, a free and open source office suite. The free suite of office productivity tools will be installed alongside the proprietary office suite currently used by the city staff. The IT department warns against high expectations.
The pilot follows a request made by the city council's Green party a year ago. The IT department sent its outline for the desktop pilot to the city council last month.
The IT department writes that it already uses open source for many parts of its work. "For the city staff the most visible illustration is the Intranet, running on open source."
On their computer workstations all city workers will soon be able to choose to use either the open source web browser Mozilla Firefox or a proprietary web browser. In the same way, the city will in a next phase provide OpenOffice.
Copies of this free and open source office suite are already made available to all staffers on the Intranet. Tampere's civil servants can download the suite, complete with instructions on how to install and use the software at home.
The IT department forewarns that switching to OpenOffice could be tricky. "In the city information technology environment, there are many other information systems that rely on the proprietary office suite. Because of this, even using the two suites in parallel will be an interoperability challenge. The same is suggested by the report by the city of Helsinki on its OpenOffice pilot. This can be considered as a guideline for Tampere."
Similar to their colleagues in Helsinki's, the IT department would prefer to concentrate on open data than replacing proprietary tools by alternatives, they write. "Instead of focusing on various systems and technologies, one should invest in the processes used to open the data and in making the use of data more efficient."
The IT department also cautions that comparing the costs of open source and proprietary alternatives can be challenging. "In addition to license fees one must consider indirect costs of procurement, in particular with regard to interoperability with other IT environments as well as the competencies needed in purchase and maintenance. The source code's transparency is not in itself a guarantee of interoperability and easy connectivity to other software. Open software interfaces and standards are needed as well."
Servers, schools and portals
The IT department points out that it is currently migrating a patient information system to servers that run Linux. It also maintains open source office software on the computer terminals in the city's public libraries.
The city's IT staffers assists Tampere school teachers and pupils with the use of several open source applications, including Firefox and GIMP, GNU Image Manipulation Program.
They are working on a portal to provide electronic government services to the citizens, were open source tools will be used. Open source is furthermore used for local implementations for a national project aimed at families with children.
"Getting a response from the IT department did take some time but it was mostly because we tried to find a good compromise together with politicians and city officials", says Olli-Poika Parviainen, vice mayor and the chairman of the Green party in the city council. "But we are finally making progress."
According to Parviainen the proposal for the pilot has already been approved by the city's executive board. The next step is submitting the proposal to the city council, he says. "My hopes are up because the city board took a generally positive view on the matter. They are also aware that openness in software is a way to save the city's money and resources in the future. However, these things can take some time."
Tampere's Green party proposal