The city of Paris is accelerating its move to free and open-source software as part of a strategy to reduce its dependence on suppliers. It plans to replace more of its software, both on servers and desktops, with open-source.

Earlier this year, volunteers among the city's 46,000 staff were invited to download and install open-source software, including the Firefox browser and Open Now, the city is planning to migrate all the users of one city department or all of those in one of the city's 20 districts, not just the volunteers, to test a larger migration. The city has 17,000 workstations, up from 12,000 in 2001.

The forced migration of such a large group of desktop users to open-source applications will allow the city authority to evaluate the real cost, in training and other expenses, of a large-scale switch, it said.

Paris is far more advanced in its plans to migrate servers to open-source alternatives. So far, 196 of its 395 servers are running Linux.

City staff at 1,900 sites now have permanent network connections allowing them to access the city's applications, up from just 300 sites in 2001. The city also aims to use free and open-source software for the network services linking those sites together, and has begun studying the feasibility of migrating file servers at 100 sites to open-source software. Similar studies are under way for the replacement of the city's external mail server, and for infrastructure services such as DNS.

The city is also leaving the door open for its suppliers to propose free software replacements for its other applications.

After the current mayor, Bertrand Delanoë, took power in 2001 his administration created a new body, the Directorate of Information Systems and Technologies, and planned how best to manage the city's IT budget, a total of €160 million (US$188 million) over the four years from 2004 through 2007.

This strategic direction resulted in the interconnection of the city authority's scattered offices, and a plan to replace or upgrade the many applications on which the city relies. Paris plans to introduce a new payroll system on 1 January, and then replace other elements of its accounting, purchasing and human resources management systems in 2007 and 2008. Would-be suppliers of these applications must show that their products can be integrated at the desktop and server levels with free software components, the city said. Bids based on open-source software will be considered on the same basis as bids using proprietary software, it said.

The city is also responsible for IT matters in its primary and middle schools. There, it has installed Open Office on 2,150 computers, and plans to bring the total to 3,500 by the end of March, it said. French high schools are run directly by central government.

As a software developer, the city has also contributed to the fortunes of the open-source movement in France. It opened the source to its Lutèce content management system for websites in 2002, and in February elected officials voted to extend this policy. As a result, the city plans to open the source to seven other applications it has developed for diverse functions: booking sports facilities, providing information about city works, managing resident parking permits, paying benefits to low-income workers, Internet mapping, issuing location filming permits and assessing public health risks during heat waves.