For twelve years now, the administration of Vieira do Minho, a municipality in the north of Portugal, is using open source wherever possible. "These IT solutions are flexible, easy to study, test and switch", says António Rebelo, head of the IT department. "It keeps us free from IT vendors and, because of the lower costs, results in a more sustainable IT infrastructure."
The municipality has been using open source on its servers for years. Its database management systems is Postgres, on top of which the IT department built many Geographic Information Systems. Web, email, file and print services are all provided using the Debian open source distribution. And for telephony the municipality relies on Asterisk.
In March this year, the council decided it was time to use open source not only for its servers but also for its desktop computers. The IT department has since replaced the ubiquitous proprietary office suite by the open source alternative LibreOffe on nearly all of the 147 PCs at the municipal office, the library, schools, the police station and in the local museum. "Because of a few complex documents, we retain one proprietary office license for one PC at the city hall."
Switching office suites was smooth, says Rebelo. The first few days staffers had to explore the software menus. "But LibreOffice is very similar to the proprietary office suite we used previously. The most recent version of LibreOffice also substantially improves document compatibility and reduces the number of interoperability errors."
Rebelo: "It is very important that our users understand why the municipality is doing this, know that this is about IT vendor independence, flexibility, sustainability and cost savings. We have explained it to all of them, and they agree with the change."
Vieira do Minho's policy when exchanging documents with other public administrations: "We submit Libreoffice documents to the central or regional government, complying with Portuguese law. If the receivers have compatibility problems, then they are not complying with the law."
Other open source applications made default on the desktop now include Thunderbird (e-mail), Sunbird (calendar), Mozilla Firefox (browser), Gimp (for images), Audacity (for sound) and PDF Split and Merge. Geographic tools include Qantum GIS, Grass and PostGis. Staffers design diagrams using DIA and all Java software development is done using Netbeans.
LibreOffice announcement by the municipality (in Portuguese)