Windows vs Linux: Open source beats Microsoft to win Barcelona's backing

No more Microsoft, says Barcelona City Council, in pursuit of "full technological sovereignty".
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Video: Barcelona: Bye Microsoft, hola Linux

The City of Barcelona is embarking on a new tech plan to purge proprietary software and replace it all with open source.

The city's first step will target key applications running on Windows, such as the Outlook email client and Exchange Server, which will be replaced with Open-Xchange. Office is also likely to be replaced with LibreOffice, while Firefox could fill the void of Internet Explorer.

Though Windows will remain running on most of the City's PCs for the next year, the end game is to replace it with Ubuntu or some other Linux distribution, which is being trialed on 1,000 municipal computers.

The ultimate goal is to achieve and guarantee " full technological sovereignty" for the municipality.

In October, Francesca Bria, Barcelona City's commissioner of technology and digital innovation, announced the City's Digital Transformation Plan, which aims to improve government-provided online services, boosting technology for government, supporting urban technology and smart-city projects, and promoting open data.

Bria says the City Council has planned to spend 70 percent of its software budget on open-source software by spring of 2019 when its municipal term of office ends.

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Windows will still run on most of Barcelona's PCs for the next year, but the goal is to replace it with a Linux distribution, such as Ubuntu.

Image: iStock

"The presence of the IT giant Bill Gates in municipal computers will be progressively reduced by the end of this municipal term of office," said Bria.

The Digital Transformation Plan has a budget of €72 million ($88 million), with about half of that slated for projects dedicated to developing open-source software.

The city announced in December that it will hire 65 new developers to support the program, which includes building a portal for local businesses to bid for government IT tenders. Eventually, it plans to have 300 employees in the Municipal Institute of Computing, the body that provides ICT services to the City Council.

The city hopes its investments in open-source software can be shared with others and it will be publishing its code on GitHub.

Barcelona City has also introduced new guidelines for purchasing ICT services. Rather than prioritizing price when contracting work, it will include other factors such an open data policy, support for free and open-source software, and whether the contract supports smaller local businesses.

Bria told El Pais that public funds must be invested in systems that can be reused and open to the local ecosystem. She noted that Barcelona is the first council to join the Public Money, Public Code campaign initiated by the Free Software Foundation Europe.

On Twitter, she wrote that the move to free and open-source software was "about changing procurement to spend public budget in favor of local open-source entrepreneurs instead of too-big-to-fail multinationals".

Munich City Council also made a wholesale shift to open-source software in 2003, swapping Windows for Linux, but in 2020 it plans to commence a massive Windows 10 rollout to 29,000 PCs.

As at 2015, Barcelona's IMI IT group was managing around 7,800 PCs and 5,200 phones for the city.

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