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Belgium: public sector locked into MS Office

The desktop IT systems of many public sector organisation in Belgium are ‘completely locked-in by one proprietary office suite’, public IT administrators said at an open source conference, which took place recently in Schoten (sounds familiar doesn’t it? Ed.), according to OSOR.

Belgian local authorities depend on a handful of IT suppliers that have all tied their products to a proprietary vendor’s office suite, explained Claudine van Beylen, IT manager at the city of Hasselt, one of the conference speakers. “We hope to break this dependency by requiring in our procurement that these IT vendors will also support open source office suites.”

According to Van Beylen, the situation is very different in the rest of the IT systems in use by the public sector. “We are using open source applications wherever we can, including Apache for our web servers, MySQL for database management, Zarafa for email and Liferay for enterprise groupware.”

“All of the local authorities have this problem: on the desktop, we’re afraid to make changes because these affect the users directly. But in the back office, where our decisions do not influence users, we are eager to use open source.”

According to Van Beylen, the city’s IT department will these days always compare proprietary and open source solutions. “We will choose open source wherever it is just as good or better than a proprietary application.”