11.10.10

New Ph.D. Thesis Shows How Finnish Government Moved to Free/Libre Software

Posted in Europe, Microsoft, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice at 2:13 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Karjalainen Martti's thesis

Summary: Finland’s story of migrations to OpenOffice.org is told in a comprehensive formal document; Romania goes the other way and ISO continues to show why it is severely flawed

Tampere University has just released this 234-page thesis whose PDF version has been downloaded nearly 700 times and whose abstract reads as follows:

This study investigates the largest transition in Finland to an open source office suite and to an open standard for office documents. The IT environment of the open source OpenOffice.org migration involves more than 10 000 workstations in the Finnish Ministry of Justice and its administrative sector.

Methodologically, the research is a longitudinal innovation adoption study covering the 7-year time span from 2003 to 2010. The study applies and tests the organizational innovation adoption process model originally developed by Everett Rogers. In addition to the theory-testing approach, the study includes artifact-building and artifact-evaluation activities of design research. The research view of the study introduces a participatory researcher’s implementation perspective where the researcher as a staff member of the organization has been in charge of the adoption of the innovation in the organization.

The findings of the study provide contributions both to IS research and practice. The events of the study give reason to suggest that the characteristics of the open source software with low-cost licenses call for improvements in the organizational innovation adoption stage model. The findings suggest that the predefined order of stages in the innovation process and sharp distinctions between stages should not be expected in organizational innovation adoption. As a new model and method, the study provides a complementary framework for the instrumentation and documentation of the open source innovation process in the organizational context. The study confirms several results from previous research and practice, especially the importance of top management support, systematic open source skill building and the presence of innovation champions in the adoption of open source solutions.

For IS practice, the study shows that the transition to an open source office suite is feasible in a large-scale context and that substantial benefits can be achieved as the result of the transition. For the user organizations of open source software, lower cost has been the most commonly cited benefit and one of the main reasons for adopting open source. Other often cited considerations include strategic goals like the facilitation of more sovereign IT governance and the reduction of vendor dependence through open source solutions and open standards. The study addresses several practically important issues involved in the adoption of open source, e.g., the analysis of software functionality and interoperability, cost evaluations, installation and configuration issues, local language support issues, additional tools to support the migration, user training and support, technical support, and software usage measurements. The evaluation of costs in the study indicates that the migration to the open source office suite platform will benefit the target organization of the study with impressive cost savings when compared to the deployment of a comparative proprietary office suite platform. The study applies numerous best practice approaches which together with the rich insight provided by the research should benefit other organizations considering open source office suite adoptions both from the perspectives of management and implementation.

As summarised by Arjen Kamphuis:

Phd thesis on succesful migration to #openoffice by Finnish gov.

For some background about Finland also consider reading:

One would expect Finland to be ahead when it comes to Free software, at the very least because it’s the country Linux came from. In Romania, which some people have just told us is known for higher corruption rates, Microsoft manages to reign, still. One Romanian reader messaged us yesterday to say that: “While EU is abandoning proprietary software, Romanian civil servants learn to use MS Office http://tinyurl.com/33j8xwk (Google Translate)”

For more information about the situation in Romania see:

A few of the links above (especially the last two) speak about how Microsoft seemingly corrupted the vote on OOXML in Romania. In turn it forces a lot of the population to buy Microsoft Office or be called “pirate”.

Finland’s migration to OpenOffice.org is not unique. There are other countries that do the same thing, Malaysia for example. The important thing is that parts of the Finnish government will be able to exchange information with the public in ODF format. OOXML (and other Microsoft Office formats) is proprietary, so no government should ever use/require it, thereby imposing the purchase of a particular set of products from one single company with dubious history.

Speaking of OOXML, it turned ISO into a launching stock and it seems to be happening again. Andy Updegrove writes:

After sixteen years of working in parallel to the traditional standards infrastructure, the World Wide Web Consortium has taken an interesting decision: to begin submitting selected W3C Recommendations to that same system for endorsement. In doing so, it joins the small handful of consortia (seven, to be exact) that have applied for this option out of the hundreds of consortia currently active in the information and communications (ICT) to apply for that option.

If this process sounds vaguely familiar, that’s likely because this is the same process that OASIS used to gain global endorsement of its OpenDocument Format (ODF). Microsoft took a similar, but procedurally distinct, route with OOXML, its competing document format, when it offered it to ECMA, which enjoys a special “Fast Track” relationship with JTC1. What won’t sound familiar is the conditions that the W3C has successfully included in its application to make submissions, on which more below.

It was only last week that W3C was involved in a separate controversy because of Microsoft. Glyn Moody links to this article about W3C becoming an official submitter to ISO and adds: “not sure this is good: wouldn’t it be better to ignore ISO after OOXML?”

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