Rome City Council has added to the public sector organisations across Europe that have embraced open source software with a new Linux roll-out.

Linux software will initially be used for file-sharing and e-mail on a new Web portal due to go live in May but, if successful, could be expanded into other areas.

Explaining the decision to go open source, a council spokesman said: "The council issued a tender for the portal in which it asked bidders to use the most efficient and economic software." The winning consortium, led by Italy's former telecom incumbent, Telecom Italia, offered a Linux-based system.

However, this did not mean a conversion to Linux, the spokesman stressed: "It's not as though the council had decided to turn its back on Bill Gates. We do a lot of things with Microsoft and will continue to do so."

The decision follows a directive from Technological Innovation Minister Lucio Stanca earlier this month, the council spokesman said. That directive drew the attention of civil service officials to open-source software and concluded that their adoption could "widen the variety of opportunities and possible solutions in a framework of equilibrium, pluralism and open competition."

Another document, published on the Innovation Ministry Web site, cites the advantages of open source as: "Modest cost, transparency and security, non-reliance on a single supplier, reusability."

The council expects to achieve medium-term savings through its use of Linux software, communications councillor Gramaglio told Rome daily La Repubblica shortly after the announcement. He added: "In the short term, what we save on licences will be spent on training staff to use the new software. There are now 9,500 council staff who use computers."

Rome follows the example of Munich and other German city councils that are reviewing the use of open source software, as well as the German and French governments. "We are not the first and we certainly won't be the last," Ambrogetti said.