UK Government Seems to Be Serious About Moving to Free Software and OpenDocument Format This Time Around
Summary: British politicians finally decide that by throwing away Microsoft spyware (in favour of FOSS and ‘cloud’ spyware like Google Docs) savings can be passed to the British public
AS ONE who works with the British public sector, I have heard some truly disturbing stories about FOSS projects being derailed by outside intervention (Microsoft partners, lobbyists, etc.) and seen some for myself. This is not a gentlemen’s club; it’s a fierce, manipulative race for domination. Those who are enjoying overpriced contracts with the government would never let go.
Earlier today there was this report in the British press  about something that requires looking at the date stamp. The headline says “UK government plans switch from Microsoft Office to open source” and it seems like a blast from the past. On many occasions before the government said it would transition to FOSS and ODF (on which there were workshops), but it hardly ever happened. Is this time different from the previous times? Let’s wait and see. Microsoft sure is lobbying and probably setting up “task forces” or “response teams” (Microsoft’s terminology) with the sole goal is derailing this policy by all means necessary (ousting those involved has been a common strategy).
Meanwhile, suggests this piece of news from Belgium , the “Dutch city of Ede spends 92 percent less (!) than its peers on software licenses” and owing to FOSS use a “Dutch town lowers IT cost 24% vs peers” . Fantastic, but it’s consistent with what Dutch researchers showed more than half a decade ago (Microsoft partners demonised them and criticised/ridiculed their reports). In other news from the same source [4,5], “Finnish schools using open source reap savings” (no surprise here either). Remember what BECTA did in the UK? As we’ve argued many times over the years, the UK is likely to be the last country in Europe to migrate to FOSS, but it would be pleasing to be proven wrong. █
Related/contextual items from the news:
Ministers are looking at saving tens of millions of pounds a year by abandoning expensive software produced by firms such as Microsoft.
Some £200m has been spent by the public sector on the computer giant’s Office suite alone since 2010.
But the Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude believes a significant proportion of that outlay could be cut by switching to software which can produce open-source files in the “open document format” (ODF), such as OpenOffice and Google Docs.
The city of Ede, the Netherlands, currently has an annual total ICT budget of six million euros. According to the Dutch Berenschot benchmark for municipal ICT costs, that is 24 percent less than other municipalities of comparable size are spending. Drilling down shows that most of this reduction can be explained by Ede’s extremely low spend on software licenses: only 56 euros per full-time equivalent employee (FTE) instead of 731 euros. That’s a very impressive 92 percent less than average. Such a large reduction was achieved by moving from proprietary to open source software.
Public administrations that switch to free and open source software can expect a large reduction of their ICT costs, a study published on Joinup shows. The annual ICT costs for the Dutch municipality of Ede are now 24% lower than its peers. “Most of this reduction can be explained by Ede’s extremely low spend on software licenses: only 56 euros per full-time equivalent employee instead of 731 euros. Such a large reduction was achieved by moving from proprietary to open source software.”
Municipalities in Finland that have switched their schools to Linux and other open source solutions are saving millions of euro, says Jouni Lintu, CIO of Opinsys. “Typically, our centrally managed open source computers are at least 40 percent cheaper than the proprietary alternative. The total savings could be 10 million.”
I’ve seen it repeatedly. New systems cost half as much and migrating old systems costs a fraction of that. The saving in money is important but so is the saving in time. In a typical school the effort could drop from many hours per week to minutes.