Five years after the European Union adopted a policy designed to free public bodies in Europe from proprietary software, government authorities across Europe are deeply dependent on Microsoft software and services.
However, some government agencies have managed to migrate to open source alternatives. Their projects are often difficult, temporary, and, carried out under the radar, in an attempt to escape lobbying both from Microsoft and other parts of government.
Rome is one of Europe’s cities advocating open source as a better alternative to Microsoft. City councilor, Flavia Marzano, argues that open source should start on the desktop with open source alternatives to Microsoft Office.
“To those who use a computer for little more than to edit text, to calculate something in a spreadsheet, to present something to their councillor, using Libre office is very easy,” she says.
More importantly, Marzano argues that cities like Rome should have control of their own software and their data, and open source technology makes that possible.
Proprietary software leaves government bodies open to the risk of supplier lock-in, and the potential of huge charges if they want to move their data to other IT platforms, she says.
“If I have proprietary software, I can’t read it, I can’t control [it],” she says. “I am obliged to [accept] solutions this vendor offers me because I don’t have the source code. A public authority should not be blackmailed by a vendor.”
The move towards cloud computing, has not, as some would argue, ended the debate over the benefits of open source software for the public sector.
"At the end of the day, those who are against open software can say that cloud computing has solved the problem. It’s not true."