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€21 mn. for a free office suite; is someone being economical with the truth?

According to the IT department city of Helsinki in Finland, migrating to an open source office suite like OpenOffice or LibreOffice will cost the city council some €21 mn., according to a news piece carried by the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE).

Back on 10th of April 2012, FSFE filed a Freedom of Information request, asking the city council how it had arrived at surprisingly high cost estimates for running OpenOffice (now LibreOffice) on its workstations. The city council has now rejected this request and has stated that it will not release any details about the calculations.

Councillor Johanna Sumuvuori has been urging greater use of free software by the city council since 2010. Together with 50 out of 85 members of Helsinki’s city council, she is now urging the city to at least provide users with up-to-date LibreOffice installs alongside MS Office.

During 2011, the council ran a pilot project featuring OpenOffice as a secondary office suite on all 21,000 council workstations and as the only office suite on 600 laptops provided to city trustees. After the pilot ended in December 2011, a council report claimed that the cost of using OpenOffice/LibreOffice would cost 70% more than the currently used MS Office suite.

After the trial, FSFE highlighted a series of shortcomings in both the pilot and the report and has now called the city’s claims “unrealistic”.

We agree.