Norwegian Minister for Modernisation Morton Andreas Meyer is asking all government institutions to have a plan for the use of open-source software by the end of 2006.

Without referring specifically to Microsoft Meyer, who is responsible for the Norwegian government's IT policy, said that "proprietary formats will no longer be acceptable in communication between citizens and government."

Meyer referred to the "spreadsheet almost everyone uses" and said this would be the last time he made a presentation available on the Net with proprietary media software.

The comments Meyer made at the conference, which focused on an initiative to digitise communications between Norwegian citizens and government, were confirmed by ministry spokesman Jan-Egil Nyland.

The initiative calls for a massive restructuring of IT in Norway's public sector, both at the national and local level. In addition to the use of open source, one of the goals is to provide all citizens with their own home page for communication with the government. In the process, every Norwegian citizen will be provided with a personal electronic ID as a replacement for the numerous user IDs and passwords currently used.

"We plan to offer everyone a home page by the end of this year," Nyland said.

While not entirely abandoning Microsoft entirely, several European governments, including Germany, France and the UK, have introduced programmes to support the use of open-source software, particularly the Linux operating system, in the public sector.