South Tyrol, an autonomous region in northern Italy, is preparing a major switch in its office software.
Instead of Microsoft Office, the government is planning to use LibreOffice and the open file format ODF. LibreOffice was forked from the popular OpenOffice productivity suite in 2010 after concerns surfaced that the project might be discontinued.
LibreOffice is the first free software that South Tyrol has used, and will be rolled out progressively over the next three years. The long migration time is down to the fact the local government has to integrate no less than 200 different software packages with its new office suite.
The region's first step in the migration will be to switch a on 7,000 machines from Microsoft Office to LibreOffice and establish the file format ODF as the standard for the data exchange between the different branches of government.
According to Kurt Pöhl, the region's head of IT, South Tyrol won't get rid of Microsoft Office overnight.
"Even after the migration is complete, we will keep using Microsoft Office on some systems because some specialised applications need it. However, analogous to Munich, Germany, it should possible to reduce the amount of licenses to a few hundred... we should be able to save around €600,000 over the next three years," he told a press conference.
"Saving money is of course one of the reasons for the introduction of free software, but it isn't the only reason: Free software also provides us with flexibility, and this flexibility is important for us in a vastly changing IT landscape," Robert Biozzo, a member of the government of South Tyrol, said.
One of the biggest challenges in the migration will be the acceptance of users. "We have to communicate the project well, prepare the users for the migration and help them in the first phase of the migration. They need to be able to use as many of the documents and templates as possible. This will be a big share of the overall project costs," Pöhl said.