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Whitehall and Ile de France – a tale of 2 public administrations

At Bristol Wireless, we’re keen on comparing and contrasting the hesitant steps (prevarication surely? Ed.) of the British public sector towards open source software with the full-blooded embrace to which the public sector abroad subjects it.

This has once again clearly illustrated this week.

Courtesy of Guardian Government Computing, we learn that Whitehall’s plans for open standards and open source are still far too timid, as follows:

  • The creation of an Open Standards Board to manage activities in the field;
  • A core set of open standards to be identified by March 2012, and made available for use by departments by June 2012;
  • All central government software procurement should include an option analysis for open source by March 2013.

Hardly likely to set the world on fire is it? 😉

Meanwhile over in France, The Gendarmerie Nationale have already been running their desktops on Ubuntu for a couple of years now (news passim) and this week OSOR reports that the government of the Ile-de-France region has teamed up with The Document Foundation to provide a ‘Software as a service’ (SaaS) version of LibreOffice – the Foundation’s free office suite – to a wide range of users.

According to the regional government, it is foreseen that from the beginning of school year 2012 approximately 1 million users (over 600,000 upper secondary school pupils, their parents, teachers and administrative staff) will have the opportunity to use this SaaS version named ‘LooL’ (Libre Office On Line). This derived version of OpenOffice is currently under testing. It combines all the functions of the free software suite with an HTML 5 interface that is compatible with almost all modern terminals.

The region will host LooL within its dedicated cloud environment (named Marguerite) with a specific plug-in developed by a free software provider, and users will be able to store their documents in their own spaces within this cloud. Access to LooL will be through ‘Lilie’, the open source Digital Work Environment (Environnement Numérique de Travail – ENT, in French) of the region’s secondary schools.

Unlike a typical SaaS office suite, the functionality of LooL is that of the regular OpenOffice suite – the base code is the same. All improvements brought to the desktop can therefore be transposed gradually to the SaaS version.

From the technical point of view, the LibreOffice suite is written mainly in C++ with a few Java modules. It can thus be installed on any computer for which it has been compiled: Windows, Linux, etc. The user interface of LibreOffice is based on GTK which allows remote display management with an optimisation of network traffic in HTML 5. LooL uses this recent GTK functionality that allows remote code execution from thin clients through any HTML 5-compatible browser.

Moreover, LibreOffice will henceforth also be available with other free software such as Firefox, on the USB keys provided to the students by the Regional council for upper secondary school pupils.

The government of Ile-de-France is one of the main public sector supporters of The Document Foundation – the home of LibreOffice, along with the Government of Brazil.


  1. UK government publishes open source toolkit | Bristol Wireless – community IT services, help and training in your aerial - November 4, 2011

    […] more action, we hope. Ed.) of the UK government’s attitude to and adoption of open source (news passim). However, today we’d like to draw attention to (and applaud) some work recently done […]