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'Freiburg's frustration with IT caused anger over free software'

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A halfhearthed implementation of OpenOffice has frustrated the civil servants working for the German city of Freiburg, says Timothy Simms, one of the city's council members. "I think that in their anger, they're now making OpenOffice the scapegoat for many other IT problems."

One of the problems, according to Simms, is that the city never seriously switched to OpenOffice, a free software office suite. He says that many civil servants are still using a version of a proprietary office suite that is now over a decade old.

Next week Tuesday evening Simms and the other council members of the city of Freiburg will vote over a proposal by the city board to revert to using a proprietary office suite for its 2500 desktop PCs. The board also suggests to repeal a decision from 2007 that made Open Document Format the standard for the city administration.

Simms expects a majority of council members to be in favour. "The city administrators loudly say they can only do their work with the ubiquitous proprietary office software. Most Green party members and the Independents argue for the use of open standards and open source, but many of the other council members seem not to appreciate these arguments and dismiss them as ideological."

Freiburg this week Tuesday published eleven documents in preparation for the vote. Annexes include the proposal prepared for the city board, written questions from several of the political parties in the council and a presentation on the IT organisation.

No interoperability
Talking at last year's Open Document Plugfest in Berlin, representatives of Freiburg explained that many of the city's workers blame OpenOffice for frustrating interoperability problems that arise when they exchange documents with other public administrations. The IT department of Freiburg has repeatedly called on other public administrations in Germany and beyond to use open document standards. The city in July this year joined the German cities of Munich and Jena, the Swiss Federal Court and the IT support centre for the Swiss canton of Waadt, to pay for improved support for Microsoft's document format OOXML in LibreOffice and OpenOffice. That project is ongoing.

 

More information:
Annexes on the use of open standards and open source to Freiburg's city council meeting of 12 November (pdfs, in German)
Linux Magazin news item (in German)
Heise news item (in German)
Joinup news item
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