Free & open source software in Europe implementations and strategies


  1. The information and views set out in this presentation are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.
  2. Free software and open source software are synonymous.

Innovate & modernise

To deliver innovative government solutions, Europe's public administrations turn to free and open source software. Innovation is the main motive, costs savings come next.

The OSOR news items show that the freedom, flexibility and scalability enabled by open source software make it an obvious choice for public ventures.


It makes business sense to use open source software. All the big IT companies are doing it. But public administrations especially ought to share their software.

Public administrations that invest in open source create future benefits and generate a virtuous loop between the public and private sector.

Pay it forward

Public administration software is financed by taxpayers, and making it public is the best way to share the solutions with citizens and companies.

Publicly sharing code and improvements to existing code, lets public administrations pay their IT investments forward. They get technological self-reliance into the bargain.

Swiss, German, and French public administrations have pooled budgets to make new software solutions possible and publicly available.

It's public administration

Source code is information. And just like other public administrative documents, it should be publicly accessible.

About this talk

  1. the big trends
  2. four problems areas
  3. the three most visible implementations
  4. the two largest desktop implementations
  5. practical strategies
  6. transition to open source in five steps
  7. but first: about OSOR.


Open Source Observatory & Repository



The big trends

Public administrations increasingly use free and open source

French Gendarmerie: "Open source desktop lowers TCO by 40%"

“Using an open source desktop lowers the total cost of 
ownership by 40% in savings on proprietary software 
licences and by reducing costs on IT management.”

The number of politicians that appreciate open source is rising

New MEPs urge building links to open source communities

Julia Reda @senficon and Max Andersson @maxandersson, 
members of  the European Parliament, want to build
links with well-known free software communities.

Public administrations use open source

for everything, everywhere

  • content management
  • document management
  • database applications
  • egovernment services
  • citizen participation
  • geoinformation systems
  • open data
  • software development

and across all sectors

open source is everywhere

in Bulgaria

Bulgarian president Georgi Parvanov praises openfest

'Common use of unlicensed software hinders uptake of open source'

Bulgaria to review its it strategy, considers open source

Open source part of Bulgarian egovernment tender requirements

Civil society pushing open source in Bulgaria

in the EU institutions

European Commission to update its open source policy

EU: EUR 1 million for security audit of open source

EC recommends supporting open document format

European Parliament releases amendment software as open source

Two hundred ways to switch an EC directorate to open source

Open source software assists european citizens to petition the EU

in ministries

How 17 French ministries joined forces to support free software

German Interior Ministry seeks open source expertise

French ministries prove free software is viable

Linux clusters in German Finance Ministry data centre

French Interior Ministry: open source 5 to 10 times cheaper

Finland's Ministry of Justice migrates to openoffice

Polish Economy Ministry makes consultation site open source

Spain's Finance Ministry offers open source email cloud service

Norway Local Gov Ministry uses open source version control system

Estonian Ministry saves millions by using open source

in regional governments

Andalusia provides messaging services 4 euro user year

Emilia-Romagna completes switch to Openoffice

Italy's Puglia region passes law on use of open source and open data

Italy's Lazio region adopts law on open source and open data

Athens region considers switch to open source

in capitals, big cities, towns and tiny villages

Spanish cities Zaragoza, Madrid, Bilbao and Badajoz

Portugal's Vieira do minho

Denmark's second-largest city Århus

Dutch city of Ede

Towns of Grygov and Jihlava in the Czech Republic

Villages of Toulouse, Arles, Voreppe and many others in France

Poland's Poznan

Italy's Bologna, Genoa, Udine and towns in the Umbria region

across all sectors, including:


Open source office at Veneto healthcare

Open source central to e-health project Danish Syddjurs

Open source empowers Sintra health centre

Luxembourg open source health records system gains foothold

More and more Linux in Riga children hospital

Hospitals eyeing open source patient record system

Hospital in Porto to switch 3000 PCs to open source office suite

Danish hospital: "Hassle free use of ODF"

Rotterdam hospital selects open source for internal ordering system

Liège hospitals use open source imaging tool

600-bed UK hospital uses open source patient records system


Open source advancing at Dutch defence ministry

Polish defence ministry moving to open source email and groupware

NATO makes ODF one of its mandatory standards

Ministry of defense to switch to Pardus GNU/Linux

Russian government to invest in open source desktop


New Extremadura Govt to support open source in schools

School: open source reduces PC troubleshooting

Slovakia school open source campaign to continue

Valencia Linux school distro saves EUR 36 million

Umbrian schools teach Venice how to switch to open source

Swiss school invests open source savings in education

Epoptes - PC lab management tool - in over 500 Greek schools

Geneva class-rooms switching to free software

Malcolm Moore, network manager at UK's Westcliff High School for Girls academy:

“This school specialises in science and engineering and 
if our students are to go on to do great things, like 
start the next Google, or 
collapse the universe at CERN...
they will certainly need to know linux.”

First problem

No political support

Too few politicians are aware of the values of free software

More politicians need to recognise the value of open source in terms of responsable government, sustainability, openness and independence from IT vendors. They should recognise that governments using open source create future benefits.

Serafín Olcoz Yanguas, the former chief information officer of Basque Country

“Free and open source software creates 
a virtuous loop between the public and private sector,
with a recurring public contribution.”

Research done on municipal governments in the Netherlands shows:
Political support and pioneers are pivotal for open source.

Blame shifting

problem¹ learn more
short-term versus long-term  
migration costs & exit costs Hidden cost of proprietary standards
lack of business models  
lock-in NL: Cost of vendor lock-in too high
legal uncertainty European Union Public Licence
perceived as risky  
lack of leading examples  
lack of ICT support How 17 French ministries joined forces
lack of governmental policies  
no incentives  
large procurement favours large firms UK Government G-Cloud

  1. Report on Policies and Initiatives on Sharing and Re-use

Second problem

Vendor lock-in on the desktop

Even the EC admits that it is locked-in.

"The current captivity situation as regards desktop operating systems and productivity tools is not new or limited to the Commission."

Do as I say, not as I do.

Third problem

The playing field is uneven

Open ICT standards fundamental for small ICT firms

MEP Andersdotter: 'EC procurement practice blocks European firms'

EC calls for use of ICT standards to battle IT vendor lock-in

EC considering hotline for procurement errors

'Discriminatory procurement specifications widespread'

'Procurement law fails to address discriminatory practices'

Must hear Procuring software by mentioning brand names

Must read Issues in open source procurement in the European public sector

Fourth problem

Lack of experience

Public administrations are unsure how to release their code as open source, and are wary to contributing to well-known open source projects.

There are no legal objections. This was thoroughly researched at the EC. Public administrations, as system owner of a software asset, have

every right to 'give away' an asset via the appropriate licensing scheme.

Pierre Damas, Head of Sector at the Directorate General for IT (DIGIT) at the EC:

“We use a lot of open source components
that we adapt and integrate, 
and it is time that we contribute back.”

There are good examples

Policies on Sharing and Re-Use

Report on Policies and Initiatives on Sharing and Re-use

  • All EU member states address sharing and re-use
  • About half of them have legislation
    • by listing standards or
    • with a policy on sharing and re-use of software

Top-three most visible open source implementations

1. French Gendarmerie

72,000 Ubuntu Linux & Libreoffice desktops

Major Stéphane Dumond (Gendarmerie, France):

“The direct benefits of saving on licences are 
the tip of the iceberg. An industrialised 
open source desktop is a powerful lever for
IT governance.”

2. Government of Spain's Extremadura autonomous region

42,000 Ubuntu Linux desktops (target)

  • 10,000 pcs in healthcare organisations use Lingobex Salud
  • 22,000 pcs in government offices will use Lingobex
  • 93,000 school pcs and laptops run Linex
  • a EUR 38 Mil procurement request for proprietary brands is/was under fire

3. City administration of Munich

14,800 Ubuntu Linux and Libreoffice desktops, now

Limux - the IT evolution:

Christian Ude (mayor of Munich) meets Bill Gates.

Gates: “Mr. ude, why are you doing this?”.
Ude: “To gain freedom.”

Gates: “Freedom from what?”
Ude: “Freedom from you, mr. gates.”

Top-two open desktops

1st place: France

ODF is France's government standard for editable documents. About 500,000 workstations on desktops across ministries create/edit/handling ODF documents daily.

2nd: Italy

Italy has many regions, provinces and city administrations that use ODF and LibreOffice

  • Province of Bolzano: 6,000 PCs
  • Provice of Trento: 4,000 PCs
  • Perugia: 1,200 PCs
  • Cremona: 500 PCs
  • Province of Macerata: 500 PCs
  • Emilia Romagna Region: 3,500 PCs
  • City of Bologna: 3,000 PCs
  • City of Piacenza: 600 PCs
  • City of Reggio Emilia: 500 PCs
  • Galliera Hospital (Genoa): 2,500 PCs (10 yrs)
  • Italian military to switch to LibreOffice and ODF: 150,000 PCs

(with thanks to LibreOffice's Italo Vignoli)

Practical strategies

Five step programme

Step 1: the UK

  • Make the use of open standards mandatory (ODF);
  • Be serious about creating a level playing field for open source software;
  • Make that a task for the nation's CIO;

Step 2: The Canary Islands (Spain)

  • Provide political support for the CIO;
  • Allow him to keep in his budget the savings realised by switching to open source;

Step 3: Basque Country (Spain), the city of Munich (Germany), or France

  • Make all parts of the IT infrastructure open source;
  • Promote diversification, create chances for local industry;
  • Pay it forward, instead of sunk costs

Step 4. Gendarmerie (France)

  • Open source provides leverage in dealing with ICT suppliers;
  • Open source improves IT management
  • Reducing licence costs is the tip of the iceberg;

Step 5. The city of Ede (The Netherlands):

  • Make Firefox the mandatory standard browser;


Courtesy to the Herculean

Emacs Org-mode

and the stirring


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