The Italian Army Switches to LibreOffice

Following announcements made last year, the Italian army has moved forward with its plan to replace Microsoft Office with LibreOffice. So far, the army has tested its transition plan across 5000 workstations without significant problems. Following its LibreDifesa plan, the army aims to replace all MS Office installations by the end of the year.

In doing so, the Italian army will join government departments from Spain, France, the UK, Holland and Germany in setting an example for the rest of the public sector to follow.

The LibreDifesa project is based on the Document Foundation's migration protocol. The protocol draws upon the experiences and successful actions of several large organizations, including local governments and other public sector agencies. These include the city of Bologna and the Regione Umbria (both in Italy).

Transitioning to open software will save up to 29 million Euros over the next few years, which is a significant stack of taxpayer's cash! What's more, this estimate covers only the army. If the plan is executed successfully, we can expect to see the other armed forces following the example—at which point, the Department of Defense expects other branches of the government to join in.

The Department of Defense also is working on e-training materials to help new users adapt to LibreOffice quickly. As any experienced user can attest, LibreOffice is much more than a simple MS Office clone. It has its own set of power features that can lighten the user's workload and boost productivity. The new materials will help users get up and running quickly.

As soon as these materials are complete, the Department aims to release them under a copyleft license. This will be a great contribution to the LibreOffice project and will increase the adoption of the office suite across Italy.

Of course, LibreOffice is just the tip of the FOSS iceberg. As soon as this project is completed, government departments will be keen to find new ways to replace proprietary software and reduce costs. This would naturally include replacing expensive operating systems with a free (and more robust) alternative, such as Linux.

With such a high profile project unfolding in a major European country, it seems like it's only a matter of time until LibreOffice becomes the standard choice for the public sector. Combined with the tighter security features offered by Linux, it's likely that most western governments will switch to FOSS.

It seems as if Microsoft have anticipated this shift. As its desktop empire crumbles, Microsoft is shifting its emphasis to Azure, its cloud computing platform, where it offers Linux alongside its proprietary systems. And it's even modifying Windows to support native Linux development tools for cross-platform developers.

This should be food for thought for those who predicted the demise of desktop Linux!