Helsinki city officials highly satisfied with Free Software
City officials in Helsinki, Finland, are overwhelmingly satisfied after trying out the Free Software office suite OpenOffice.org on their laptops. 75% of 600 officials have been using OpenOffice.org exclusively since February, as part of a pilot project where the city installed the program on 22,500 workstations.
In the spring of 2011, the city installed the Free Software office suite OpenOffice on 22,500 desktops. On the laptops of 600 officials, it was deployed as the only office suite. Even though these latter users only received a written manual and no actual training, still 75 % of the users where satisfied. The pilot project is based on an initiative by Helsinki city council member Johanna Sumuvuori.
"This feedback is very encouraging. We congratulate the City of Helsinki on its successful pilot project, and hope others will follow," comments Otto Kekäläinen, the Free Software Foundation Europe's coordinator for Finland. "Free Software means that public bodies no longer depend on a single vendor, and don't have to pay monopoly prices for their software and services anymore. This is a crucial difference in these economically straightened times."
The key reason why some users were not satisfied were difficulties in opening files generated with the proprietary Microsoft Office. Yet according to a Twitter messages from Helsinki city transport board member Mirva Haltia-Holmberg, most of these interoperability issues would be solved if all users learned to save their files in the correct format.
Helsinki is far from the only city in Finland to make use of Free Software. In a similar initiative in Turku city council, Green Party chairman Ville Niinistö stated: "Migration into free and open source software and operating systems would save significant amounts of money on the city level. In office software the move into open souce could be implemented very quickly. Migration into open source software would also be good for the general development of an information society, since this type of software makes possible faster and more free software development."
During year 2011 a number of projects have been started to increase of use of Free Software in the public administration in Finland. Besides Helsinki, similar initiatives have been undertaken in the city councils of Tampere, Turku, Paimio and Salo, usually started by the council members. In the spring of 2011 71 % of members of parliament responded "yes" to the claim that the state should prefer Free Software (such as GNU/Linux and OpenOffice in its ICT acquisitions).
Finland has been a forerunner in the use of Free Software in the private sector for years. Research published two years ago by Red Hat and Georgia Tech placed the Finnish industry first in the world in use of Free Software. The Finnish Ministry of Defence has been using GNU/Linux in key system since 2006. The most important argument for the use of GNU/Linux was security. The Finnish Ministry of Justice has migrated into OpenOffice in 2007. Schools around Finland have been saving significant amounts of money by moving to the Linux Terminal Server Project.