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Munich sticks with Free Software


On Tuesday, Munich's first mayor finally reacted to an inquiry by the Green Party (in German) related to rumours regarding a possible switch back to a Windows-based desktop environment. The answer to the inquiry shows that there is no factual basis for the claims made by first mayor and second mayor. An evaluation of the IT infrastructure and -processes is underway. FSFE calls on the city council to include vendor independence as well as interoperability as factors in the investigation, since they were central reasons for Munich to switch to Free Software in the first place.

In recent months, statements by the new mayors Reiter and Schmid have stirred up confusion regarding the future IT strategy of Munich. Contrary to third mayor Christine Strobl, the first and second mayor indicated a possible end of the exemplary usage of Free Software within the city. Despite some effort on the side of the FSFE, facts were hard to obtain. The answer to the inquiry now sheds some light on the issue.

No factual basis for criticism

In this manner, the employee-survey “Great Place to Work” from late 2013, used by Reiter and Schmid in their criticisms towards the Free Software used in the city, included various facets of the IT structure not related to software, ranging from hardware to support and telecommuting. It does not, however, offer any information on a possible relation of the employees' problems with Free Software. This information is currently unavailable, as Reiter says within the answer.

The mayor furthermore admits that the often-cited waiting time needed to obtain official work mobile phone has “no relation” to the “operating system LiMux”, but was instead caused by the fact that he was the first to demand the implementation of iOS in the city's IT infrastructure.

Regarding the missing unified mail and calendar application criticised by Schmid, it became clear that the implementation of the corresponding Free Software solution Kolab is currently in the works. It was only initiated in early 2014 and is expected to be used starting in 2015.

Broad support for Free Software in Munich

The city's IT department, the city council, as well as third mayor Christine Strobl, support the current IT strategy and thus distance themselves from the criticisms of the first and second mayor. Strobl emphasises that "upon careful checking" she still considers the switch to Free Software as the right thing to do.

She has a sound economic basis for this view: Due to reduced licensing expenditures alone, the city was able to save 11 million Euro. The hardware cost alone of switching to Windows 7 would amount to 3,15 million Euro, with Windows 8 being even more expensive according to the IT-administration. A switch would incur additional costs, and mean the loss of the achievements in the support of open standards.

Include vendor independence and interoperability

The document states that a working group will evaluate the IT-structures and -processes within the city and will give advice on their improvement. The criteria for this evaluation are formulated in a very broad way, which makes it difficult to comment on them at this point. One thing is clear: the evaluation needs to take vendor independence and interoperability into account instead of limiting its perspective on cost and user satisfaction, since the former have been central arguments for the switch in the first place. This enables that the city to control their own data and ensures the non-discriminative access to the cities IT services.

“Other European Countries such as Great Britain, France, Italy, and Sweden have made Free Software and Open Standards a central part of their IT strategies for the public sector in the past years. In Germany, the public sector is lagging behind. Germany's federal and state governments finally need to take coherent action so that public institutions here, too, can enjoy the benefits of Free Software” says Karsten Gerloff, President of the Free Software Foundation Europe.