The Italian region of Veneto should learn from the free and open source software experiences of schools in the Umbria region, says Enio Gemmo, IT consultant and member of LibreVeneto, a chapter of the LibreItalia community. The added benefit of using free software is that it promotes an open data culture, Gemmo says. However, he cautions that any switch to free and open source solutions and open data formats needs to be carefully prepared, and executed gradually.
IT consultant spoke on Wednesday at a E-skills for Growth workshop, part of Digital Venice, a conference co-funded by the European Commission.
Most schools have only experienced proprietary software, making the experiences of the LibreUmbria chapter a beacon. Its involvement in the LibreUmbria@Scuola project provides others with concrete examples on how to switch to free and open source. The advocacy groups organises seminars aimed at teachers and parents to educate them on how technological choices impact the sharing of knowledge. They also provide courses that show schools how to switch PCs to free software, including the Ubuntu Linux operating system and the LibreOffice office productivity suite.
To date, the Umbria group has taught 50 teachers in a school in Perugia, the region's capital. They have also helped set up Linux PCs in school computer labs. Next month, the group is setting up similar labs in schools across the region.
Gemmo points out that LibreOffice is already used by many Italian public administrations, including the Province of Bolzano, the Province of Cremona and Province of Macerata, as well as public administration in Umbria. "We count over 16000 LibreOffice implementations in Italy", he said. "More so, the LibreItalia community has over 2500 members that are able to provide support, either voluntary or commercial."
According to Gemmo, it is important that public administrations develop an understanding of free software and encourage the use of real open standards. "Proprietary software and their restrictive data formats are pervasive, making it difficult to change to open alternatives."