If there's one thing that obsesses local government organisations in recession-ridden Italy, it's cutting spending. One way many of them think can help them achieve that goal is ditching Microsoft and going open source.
The latest in what is becoming an impressively long list of Italian cities to make the transition is the City of Udine, a town of 100,000 people in the north east of Italy. The municipality recently announced that by the end of 2014 it will start a process which, over the coming years, will make OpenOffice the default personal productivity suite on each of its 900 computers.
The move, the city says, will allow it to save roughly €400 on the cost of software licensing for each machine, a total of €360,000. The migration will start with 80 new computers that, according to the 2014 budget document, have to be bought by December.
The migration will continue as old PCs with Microsoft Office installed will be gradually phased out and substituted with new, OpenOffice ones.
However important, saving some good money along the way is not the only goal — regular software updates being another one.
"Some of our PCs are stuck with pretty old software like Office 2000, which is no longer supported, as we haven't had the resources to upgrade," Gabriele Giacomini, the innovation and economic development councillor for the municipality of Udine, told ZDNet.
"By switching to open source, we will have the chance to allow our employees to work with the latest version of the suite."
To smooth the transition, the municipality is planning some training sessions for the first employees to be awarded the new machines, along with several screencasts to explain the main differences between the old and new suites. "We think we can do the training with internal resources, therefore not adding further costs to the organisation," Giacomini said.
The municipality management hopes the switch will be made easier also by the fact that OpenOffice has been installed on every PC for years and many employees already use it at home. Plus, the management software used for Udine's council's deliberations will be tied to the OpenOffice text editor and not to Microsoft Word.
"This way, the roughly 400 employees using the software will be forced to start familiarising themselves with OpenOffice Writer when they have to edit the deliberations files, making them more ready for when their PCs get rid of Microsoft Office," Antonio Scaramuzzi, the city of Udine's CIO, told ZDNet.
While there's no defined timeline for the completion of the project, the city's course is set, and in 2015 the bar is going to be placed even higher. Next year, the organisation plans to start experimenting with some all-open source machines with Linux as the operating system.
"This is something we tried to do in the past but we had too many proprietary applications that could not run on Linux and we had to scrap the idea," Scaramuzzi said. "Now it definitely looks more feasible and it could lead us further on the way to the open software."
In the meantime, Udine's management could pay close attention to what will happen in the city of Turin which has just announced its plan to ditch Microsoft XP for Ubuntu.
But in contemporary Italy, there's no shortage of examples to draw lessons from, as in the past few months many other local government organisations have said goodbye to Microsoft in favouring of embracing free software instead.
Among them are the autonomous province of South Tyrol, the provinces of Perugia and Terni and the region of Umbria.