From time immemorial, people have complained about wasteful government spending. Congress is continually looking for programs to cut and budgets to reduce, yet we continue to spend millions of dollars on software we could get for virtually free. Take Apache OpenOffice for example. Apache OpenOffice is the leading open-source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, and databases. It is available in many languages and works on all common computers. It stores all your data in an international open standard format and can also read and write files from other common office software packages. It can be downloaded and used completely free of charge for any purpose.

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, today there are over 22 million people employed by federal, state and local government in the United States.  Microsoft Office 2016 Professional retails at $399.00 in the Microsoft store. To upgrade everyone to the latest software package, it would cost $8.8B. Sure there are discounts for buying in bulk but even at %50 off, it would cost  over $4B. To upgrade to the latest OpenOffice software, it would cost ZERO in software. Just by making this one software decision, State, Local and Federal government could literally save billions.

Sure there are some costs required for installing the software and training the employees. Every organization what conducts migration to faces with the opposition of existing users who settle down to other office suites and don’t want to change their habits. But training is an ongoing cost anyway since new employees are continually entering the workforce and the current office suites are continually changing their software.

In Europe, over the last 10 years there has been a grass roots transition to OpenOffice. Many city governments have converted over in the face of ouster budget cuts. Cities in England, German, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Poland, Belgium and Latvia are all making the change.  The French Tax agency made the following statement when they made the change in a few years ago:

“The agency has calculated that switching its 80,000 desktops to Office XP (from MS Office 97) would cost around €29.5m, but switching to only €200,000. Although this cost is a one-off saving, due to the need for regular upgrades it will effectively save this amount every five years.”

Even in the US, a few brave souls are starting to take advantage of open-source software.   In Maryland, the Howard County Library has deployed OpenOffice on 332 computers for public use. In Florida, the city of Largo and in Colorado the cities of Northglenn and Steamboat Springs have converted over to OpenOffice.

Many other open-source software products that the government could take advantage of including website design, content management, database management and software testing. By looking at open-source software, millions of government dollars could be diverted for better use than purchasing annual software licenses. Maybe OpenOffice or some other open-source technology should be in your agency’s future.