The Spanish region of Extremadura has gone open source, deciding to move its entire administratrion to Linux and open source software within a year.

The region's government has promoted open source for nearly 10 years but will now make it a requirement that its officals use the ODF and PDF formats for all documents.

Luis Millán de Vázquez de Miguel, councillor for Infrastructures and Technological Development, said the administration was the first public body to take such a radical step.

"This is an important initiative that the Junta de Extremadura has been working on for a long time, accumulating experience and analysing the impact on our organisation so as to guarantee its success," he said on Friday. The decision was reached in a 25 July meeting.

Extremadura, Spain's poorest region, made headlines following a 2002 decision to migrate about 70,000 desktops and 400 servers in its schools to a locally tailored version of Debian called gnuLinEx.

"The government has estimated that the total cost for the first year of this project was about 190,000 euros (£130,000), and believes it saved 18 million euros overall compared with a Microsoft-based system."

The new decision will extend the use of LinEx from schools to all civil servants and finally all of the region's administrative offices. The government didn't say how many systems would be migrated. The plan calls for all applications to be open source as well. The standard document format will be ODF (Open Document Format), with PDF used when exact visual appearance must be preserved.

Vázquez de Miguel said the move was expected to make Extremadura's government less exposed to forced upgrades, and would make public documents easier to preserve and more easily accessible by the public.

Extremadura's telecoms department is preparing a technical support plan, and organisations such as Intel, El Corte Inglés, Spain's largest department store chain, and Bull Espana have pledged support. IT-oriented organisations are hoping to gather practical information about large-scale Linux migrations from the project.

Extremadura will make a presentation on the project to the United Nations in August, and in September at the Ciudad del Saber ("City of Knowledge") project in Panama, Vázquez de Miguel said. The region has a population of just over 1 million, and an employment rate of 50 percent.

A number of national and regional governments are investigating open source software and open file formats as a way of reducing their long-term costs and stimulating local economies. One of the highest-profile is Munich's migration of 14,000 desktops from Windows to Linux.

Massachusetts made headlines worldwide last September when then-state CIO Peter Quinn finalised a plan to begin migrating to OpenDocument formats for reading and saving reports, spreadsheets and presentations by the start of 2007.

In the UK, Birmingham City Council, Europe's largest local authority, is moving 1,500 desktops as well as back-end servers in its library service to open source software in a year-long trial.

Bristol City Council believes it will save 60 percent on software costs over five years by switching its 5,500 users to Sun's StarOffice and the ODF (Open Document Format) standard, and ditching Microsoft Office.

The UK government is backing a programme called the Open Source Academy, an umbrella for a number of projects hoping to encourage the use of open source software in local authorities.