LibreOffice is being used in governments and companies around the world, and this is largely thanks to support and advocacy from local communities and developers. Today we’re talking to Edmund Laugasson, a member of the Estonian LibreOffice community, who is promoting the software and the Open Document Format (ODF) in his country…
How popular is Free, Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) and LibreOffice in Estonia?
To be honest, it has not yet been deeply investigated, but the Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications has published a “State Information System Interoperability Framework” (in Estonian) where clearly ODF is the main format suggested to use. The status of OOXML is only “allowed”. OOXML should not be confused with the file formats used by MS Office, which differs from OOXML by several proprietary changes. Even LibreOffice offers two different versions to save, e.g. docx – one is OOXML and the another one is used in MS Word. The same applies also to rest of OOXML, MS Office formats that coexist in LibreOffice. As the status of ODF is “suggested”, it is not mandatory. Despite that, ODF is quite widely used – for instance, educational institutions usually have LibreOffice installed, along with some local authorities.
Research is quite challenging as people usually do not respond to questionnaires, and researchers need to meet people directly in order to get reliable answers to questions.
What is your background and involvement in FLOSS?
I live in a small city called Rapla in Estonia, but I work as a lecturer at IT College, which is part of the Tallinn University of Technology. I am involved in FLOSS in many ways. When teaching, I use FLOSS as much as possible: the operating system in university is Ubuntu Linux, and I use derivates like Linux Mint MATE, all 64-bit and the latest LTS (Long Term Support) versions. The office suite is LibreOffice everywhere under GNU/Linux but under MS Windows next to MS Office. It is very important to have LibreOffice installed on every operating system that is used. Also, at least ODF file formats should be opened by LibreOffice by default. Then it would be much easier to deploy ODF in future when the ground is prepared properly. We have a dual-boot system (Microsoft Windows 10 and Ubuntu Linux 16.04.4), and in one classroom also a triple-boot (with macOS 10.12).
In addition I am involved as a board member of the Estonian Free and Open-Source Software Association, taking care of FLOSS in general in Estonia. Also I am involved in the Network of Estonian Teachers of Informatics and Computer Science (NETICS) as a board member. There I promote FLOSS – LibreOffice in particular – to encourage people to use it.
The next involvement is my doctoral studies at Tallinn University, where the current topic is “Technology approval as a factor of adopting a free software ecosystem”.
Further activities will come when I graduate and can focus more on wider deployments of FLOSS, particularly LibreOffice. I have serious plans to arrange all this, but as people in Estonia are not very cooperative, it takes more time – regardless of the fact that Estonia is small. Lots of people just do not believe in better future full of FLOSS, and those few who still believe, will act towards that goal. So to anyone who feels the FLOSS spark inside: do not hesitate to contact me.
What do you think are the biggest obstacles to wider FLOSS and LibreOffice adoption in Estonia?
My first paper in 2013 (published at the IFIP conference) showed that awareness of FLOSS is still relatively low, but interest in getting more information is quite high. Microsoft is doing relatively strong lobbying work, also in Estonia, and the government has quite weak power regarding FLOSS. There is also sometimes controversial behaviour: five state-arranged procurements in the FLOSS field (four state procurements relating to LibreOffice, one state procurement to create an interoperability framework), but weak activities around FLOSS in general. So I decided to start my doctoral studies to fix this situation in a scientific (weighted) way.