OSS desktop feasibility test conducted with 4 local governments in Japan.

The Information-technology Promotion Agency (IPA), Tokyo, Japan
published a report on a feasibility test of Open Source Software (OSS)
desktop system installation to local government offices on July 27th.
The IPA is a subsidiary organization of the Ministry of Economy, Trade
and Industry and has planed to proliferate an OSS desktop system among
local government.  The test was conducted from November 2005 to March
2006 aiming at clarifying issues of migration to OSS and user support.
The IPA stated "The test has confirmed that an OSS desktop system is
satisfactory for doing a practical use in a local government office." in
its press release.

The test has successfully evaluated the efficiency of OSS desktop
systems by installing them for approximately 400 workers of four local
government offices and by letting them be used for real tasks through
the test period.  The test has confirmed that open source based
fundamental software applications such as a word-processor, spreadsheet,
and web browser, as well as operating systems are capable of a practical
business use.  Additionally, several experiments were also conducted:
OSS-based central PC management, OSS-based video teleconference system,
and interconnecting OSS desktop systems to legacy systems.

The town office of Ninomiya-machi in Tochigi prefecture, one of the four
local governments in the test, entirely replaced 139 Windows PCs for
daily work with Novell Desktop Linux PCs and migrated Microsoft Office
to OpenOffice.org at a time on February 2006.  Ninomiya-machi is a small
town with 17,000 populations located north of near Tokyo and is well
known as a top production town of strawberry in Japan.  Like many small
towns in Japan, Ninomiya-machi has been experiencing a deficit in the
budget for years and consequently reducing costs including IT related
expenses has been becoming a big concern.  Unlike other towns, an IT
manager of Ninomiya-machi is good at Linux.  For the reason,
Ninomiya-machi applied to the feasibility test.

The town office of Ninomiya-machi has 150 public workers.  Most of them
are a beginners of computer.  To avoid their confusion at the migration,
the installation vendor provided all workers with training courses on
both Linux and OpenOffice.org.  There were a number of software
applications whose compatible applications were not available on Linux
PCs.  To have an access to such software applications, every small group
of workers was given one Windows PC that could be remotely used from
their individual Linux PC via VNC. The only person in the group,
however, could use it at a time.

Once the migration was taken a place, the help desk got many inquiries
from users about how to use their computer even though they had been
given training.  Since half of the inquiries had been related to
OpenOffice.org, the Japanese native language project of OpenOffice.org
community started to support the help desk through a project's Q&A web
site http://oooug.jp/faq/ .  With this continuous support, the town
office of Ninomiya-machi in Japan has successfully migrated from
Microsoft Windows and Office to Linux and OpenOffice.org.

Akihiko Hashimoto, researcher in the IPA, speaks "The feasibility test
has proven that an OSS desktop system is satisfactory for doing
practical use in a local government office."  On the other hand, many
issues have been found.  The biggest issue is of interoperability
between Microsoft Office document files and OpenOfficeorg ones.  The
town office has to exchange Microsoft Office document files among its
neighbors.  However, the workers in the town office of Ninomiya-machi
now use OpenOffice.org instead of Microsoft Office and consequently they
have to take care of two types of document files at the same time.

To try to solve the issues, the IPA will conduct a feasibility test
again in this fiscal year and concurrently start to study requirements
of OpenOffice.org for Japanese users.

The Information-technology Promotion Agency (IPA)

Ninomiya-machi, Tochigi, Japan

Q&A web site of Japanese native language project of OpenOffice.org

Yutaka Kachi

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