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April 6, 2024

Migration of 30K German State Government Workforce from Windows to Linux


Scharon Harding

– Apr 5, 2024 7:03 pm UTC

Schleswig-Holstein, one of Germany’s 16 states, on Wednesday confirmed plans to move tens of thousands of systems from Microsoft Windows to Linux. The announcement follows previously established plans to migrate the state government off Microsoft Office in favor of open source LibreOffice.

As spotted by The Document Foundation, the government has apparently finished its pilot run of LibreOffice and is now announcing plans to expand to more open source offerings.

In 2021, the state government announced plans to move 25,000 computers to LibreOffice by 2026. At the time, Schleswig-Holstein said it had already been testing LibreOffice for two years.

As revealed this week on the website of Minister-President Daniel Gunther, the state administration has affirmed its plans to transition all of its systems to the Linux operating system (OS).

The state government has initiated this switch away from proprietary software with the objective of creating free, open-source platforms and digitally sovereign IT workplaces for nearly 30,000 administrative employees as per the translation provided on the website.

The state government will deliver a training scheme which will be updated if required.

Concerning LibreOffice, the government admits the probability that there might be jobs necessitating such specialized software that the transition to open source software may not be viable.

In 2021, Jan Philipp Albrecht, who was then the minister for Energy, Agriculture, the Environment, Nature, and Digitalization of Schleswig-Holstein, expressed the intention to transition the state government off of Windows.

He noted, “Due to the high hardware requirements of Windows 11, we would have a problem with older computers. With Linux we don’t have that”. He mentioned this in an interview with Heise magazine, as translated by Google.

The announcement made this week also indicated that the Schleswig-Holstein government will move away from Microsoft Sharepoint and Exchange/Outlook. Open source solutions, Nextcloud and Open-Xchange, and Mozilla Thunderbird used with the Univention active directory connector, will be used instead.

Schleswig-Holstein is also creating an open source directory service as a substitute for Microsoft’s Active Directory, as well as an open source telephony solution.

The Schleswig-Holstein government’s decision, as explained, was driven by the perceived benefits of enhanced IT security, cost efficiencies, and collaborative interfaces in open source software systems.

Additionally, the government is strongly advocating for digital sovereignty. Schleswig-Holstein’s Minister for Digitalization, Dirk Schrödter, was referenced in their announcement comparing the value of digital sovereignty to that of energy sovereignty. The Minister was also quoted stating that the current standard IT workplace products fail to attain digital sovereignty.

Minister Schrödter mentioned the state government’s increasing dependency on cloud services, and pointed out the lack of user influence on data flow linked with proprietary software, and its potential dissemination to other nations.

The switch to open source software was also seen as a budget-friendly move. Schrödter stated that savings from licensing fees could be allocated towards “genuine programming services from our domestic digital economy”, consequently creating local employment opportunities.

In 2021, Albrecht expressed that proprietary software contracts were pushing the state to its limits as “license fees have been consistently soaring,” according to Google’s translation.

He further added, “In terms of our objectives for the digital transition of administration, open source provides greater flexibility.”

Albrecht also revealed that 90 percent of the state government’s video conferences were facilitated by the open source software, Jitsi. This was particularly beneficial in times of the COVID-19 pandemic as it enabled quick enhancement of video conferencing capabilities.

Moreover, he highlighted that the school portal was built on an unnamed open source software which allowed for a flexible interface design and the freedom to amalgamate services as per their preference.

Global government entities are increasingly adopting Linux and open source technologies. For instance, governments keen on eschewing US-based technologies, such as North Korea and China, have turned to Linux. Likewise, the South Korean government plans to transition to Linux by 2026, and the city of Barcelona initiated migration plans in 2018.

However, some government bodies have changed course, returning to Windows after initially switching. In 2005, Vienna introduced the Debian-based distribution WIENUX, but halted the migration by 2009.

In 2003, Munich announced its plan to move approximately 14,000 PCs from Windows to Linux. By 2013, the LiMux project was complete, but high costs and user dissatisfaction led to Munich’s decision in 2017 to return to Windows over the course of three years.

Albrecht addressed these challenges in a 2021 conversation with Heise:

The major issue was the lack of proper involvement from the employees. We’ve improved this by planning longer transition periods with concurrent usage. We also gradually integrate open source where the sections are prepared for it. This creates the incentive for more implementation as individuals see its effectiveness.

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