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Belgian political party Ecolo moving to open source, Ubuntu

Ecolo, a green party in Belgium, is planning a move that would see all 220 workstations in its main office switch to open source by 2011.

Sebastien Bollingh, the party’s ICT manager, says they plan to eventually replace the underlying system with entirely Ubuntu computers: “We started by changing the applications that did not change anything for the users, like the database and the website.”

After that, they began migrating software, such as browsers to Firefox and word processors to Open Office. “We are identifying power users that are able to use OpenOffice and got them starting the switch to ODF (Open Document Format) files. Their use of ODF is enticing the others to start using OpenOffice whenever they need to work with a ODF document, and this results in a gradual increase of OpenOffice.”

According to Bollingh’s experience, users have a hard time  switching to a Linux desktop: “They are used to a certain way of working, and it is really hard to get them to change their habits.”

He also notices that users find it hard to get used to a new interface, but this works to their advantage: “It seems easier to start using OpenOffice when they are used to Microsoft Office version 2003. It is more difficult to switch from Microsoft Office 2003 to Microsoft Office version 2008. That interface confuses them.”