Barcelona Aims To Oust Microsoft In Open Source Drive

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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The Catalonian capital is aiming to supplant proprietary software including Outlook, Office and Internet Explorer by the spring of next year

The city of Barcelona has embarked on an ambitious open source effort aimed at reducing its dependence on large proprietary software vendors such as Microsoft, including the replacement of both applications and operating systems.

The city government is investing 70 percent of its software budget into open source this year, with the aim of swapping Microsoft email and productivity tools for open source equivalents by the spring of next year, the end of the current government’s mandate.

Longer-term goals include supplanting Windows with a Linux distribution such as Ubuntu, which is already being trialled on 1,000 desktops under a city government trial, according to Spanish daily El País.

The initial stage targets Microsoft’s Outlook email client and server software, as well as Internet Explorer and Office, which are to be replaced by OpenXchange, Mozilla Firefox and OpenOffice, according to Francesca Bria, Barcelona council’s commissioner for technology and digital innovation.

‘Public Money, Public Code’

She said Barcelona is the first European city to join the Free Software Foundation’s Public Money, Public Code initiative, which encourages governments to use open source software.

“The funds that come from the citizens have to be invested in systems that can be reused and opened up to a local ecosystem,” Bria said.

The city’s move is aimed at reducing its licensing costs and its dependence on particular suppliers, which can involve contracts with the same companies going on for decades, Bria said.

She said open source software developed by Barcelona under the programme will be made available for use by other municipalities in Spain and elsewhere, with a city-developed sensor monitoring tool called Sentillo already being used in Dubai and Japan.

To back up its open source drive the city is hiring 65 engineers, with half set to start this month and the other half next January.

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Open source projects

The city’s digital development institute is currently working on 20 projects, including a procurement platform aimed at facilitating the participation of smaller businesses in public contracts and tools aimed at centralising the collection and analysis of large repositories of municipal data.

Barcelona’s programme recalls the desktop Linux drive implemented by the Bavarian city of Munich, which saw 15,000 municipal government desktops and laptops migrated to a customised Linux operating system from 2003 to 2013.

The so-called LiMux project lost its political support with changes of government in recent years, however, and in November the city government approved a €49.3 million (£44m) plan to migrate its systems to Windows 10 by 2020.

Other large-scale desktop Linux programmes have been undertaken by France’s gendarmerie, the Chinese government, and the cities of Amsterdam in the Netherlands and Zaragoza in Spain. The cities of Vienna and Solothum in Switzerland launched desktop Linux projects that were later abandoned.

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