Ditch Microsoft Office or take a pay cut: Which would you choose?

The strongest driver for free software adoption in a public administration? Fear of layoffs.

If you don’t believe it, ask the autonomous province of South Tyrol, in Northern Italy. The local government has just begun implementing a plan that will have most public sector organisations in the region using LibreOffice by 2016. Really.

And why did they do it? Because the austerity measures passed by the national government meant the region was left facing a €16m cut to its personnel budget. In order to avoid cutting employees (or, more likely, their pay), management and unions had to find a creative solution. Which they did: a mass migration from Microsoft Office to an open source equivalent.

The savings are mandatory, so it was either us or the proprietary software, said Erwin Pfeifer, not entirely joking. Pfeifer is a member of the autonomous province’s IT department and one of the people managing the project — via

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