by Michael Smith
More and more authorities are discovering the benefits of free and open software. Not only half of the desktop PCs of the Belgium Justice authorities have been converted meanwhile to Linux and OpenOffice.org, but Sachsen-Anhalt (Germany) has also now decided to change over entirely to Linux and OpenOffice.org for its public services. Primarily this is in order to save money and security to be enhanced significantly. It is rather a shame that neither the British governments nor the European Union bodies seem to have the same ideas.
The Belgium Ministry of Justice decided already in 2005 to install on all new PCs SUSE Linux and OpenOffice.org. In June of 2008 Sachsen-Anhalt followed suit.
The migration to Linux in Belgium started with the lower courts of the country and is being introduced step by step with the purchase of new PCs. The change is being accompanied by training and support for the users in order that they learn how to work with this new software; new to them at least. In addition to that their fears shall be overcome by those measures, fears of new software that they have not used before, especially a totally new operating system and feel.
The decision of the former Belgium minister Laurette Onkelinx to migrate to a desktop environment based on open source is the result of the recommendation of the Belgium government to implement open standards within the authorities. The migration affects at the current level 12,891 PCs, of which meanwhile about half have been converted to Linux and OpenOffice.org.
It still is going to take some time before we reach a complete changeover. According to information from the ministry there are still some peripherals in use, such as some printers, that do not work with Linux (time that was changed). An additional problem are the special applications of which some were developed by the ministry and other which were bought in that also do not work with Linux (as yet). Examples for those specific applications are programs that work with MS Access as database. In addition to that there are others, partly self-developed programs, that were developed with other Microsoft products. Those are, according to the ministry, difficult to migrate.
Meanwhile can Sachen-Anhalt be happy that it does not, as yet, have to battle with such problems and complexities. Its change-over is going to be done in a different style and, before all 25,000 Desktop-PCs in the state are being converted to Linux and OpenOffice.org, etc. it is aimed to introduce an open data format to all data and documents.
Other European Union countries and authorities have done a similar complete and/or partial migration to one or the other Linux operating system and to OpenOffice.org – and other Open Source software, as, for instance, was done by the French Gendarmerie, the cities of Munich and Vienna, and many many more.
Also in the British Isles some local authorities are moving to Open Source software in one way or another, whether, as the Mole Valley District, to the paid-for Star Office (nothing but a tarted up version of the FREE OpenOffice.org) or even, as in some cases to Linux OS and OpenOffice.org, and other Open Source software. Time too, one can but add.
© M Smith (Veshengro), September 2008
by Michael Smith