Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Belgian Federal Ministry of Justice: 'possible failure'

BE: 'Lack of training impedes open source pilot at Justice ministry'

Oct 27, 2009

Lack of training and coaching for end-users is the main reason for the possible failure of a three-year open source desktop pilot at the Belgian Federal Ministery of Justice, says a federal employee at the court of Justice in Ghent.


The Belgian IT magazine Datanews last week reported that the ministry is scrapping its open source desktop pilot. A few of 17,000 desktop PCs at the Ministery of Justice were migrated to the Suse GNU/Linux distribution, using the open source suite of office applications OpenOffice, three years ago.

Datanews reports that, according to a study by Microsoft, the open source desktop users have for instance been experiencing difficulties printing documents sent by email. They also found it hard to overcome incompatibilities between documents stored in the Open Document Format and those stored in Microsoft's proprietary documents formats.

The open source desktops will be replaced by Microsoft's proprietary desktops, Datanews wrote last week.

However, Lieselot Bleyenberg, spokeswoman for the ministry, denies this decision has been made. "This is not at issue and that is all that I can say about it at this point."

She confirms the ministry has recently signed a contract with Microsoft.


According to a source who wants to remain anonymous, this contract encompasses the installation of Microsoft Office on all desktop PCs. "Blaming the problems on open source is unfair. The software itself is not the cause of the problems. The same issues will occur should the migration to the new Microsoft environment happen without the necessary training."

The source indicates that such user training is a common requirement for any desktop migration project, irrespective of whether this involves open source or proprietary software.

"If only a fraction of the time and money now spent on migrating to the new Microsoft products, would have been used for coaching and mentoring the open source users, you could have added the Justice Department to the list of OpenOffice projects in Belgian public administrations that OSOR published last week."

The source also criticised the decision to licence a specific version of Microsoft's Office, Professional Plus. "It is a waste, for about 90 percent of all desktops users have no need for all of the components that are included in that version."

The Dutch IT news site reported that Hans van Bossuyt, subdirector of the department's Automation Committee has resigned from his post last week. According to Tweakers,  Bossuyt says there is no political will to drive the modernisation of the department.


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