Embracing open source cloud: Local government in Tirana switches to open source cloud solution

This article was originally published on Opensource.com.

Open source software has come a long way since the turn of the century. Each year, more and more people are embracing open source technology and development models. Not just people, though ­– corporations and governments are exploring open source solutions too. From the White House to the Italian army, open source is appearing more frequently in the public sector. But perhaps the newest addition to the list is the municipality of Tirana, Albania.

On June 11th, the local government in the municipality of Tirana migrated their private cloud to Nextcloud, an open source cloud and office productivity suite. The decision to move to an integrated cloud / office suite came after internal discussion about security and performance. Because Nextcloud is entirely open source, it stood out as a powerful option for the municipality to consider.

Why switch to Nextcloud?

The municipality was looking for ways to optimize on costs without sacrificing security. Many people deeply familiar with open source are already aware of the security benefits of using open source software. Instead of relying on a private firm to assure the code is secure, open source software benefits from letting anyone (or paying someone else) to audit the code, find flaws, and submit bugs or patches to get them fixed. This was something Ermir Puka and other members of the IT team in Tirana considered when choosing a cloud solution for the 600 employees of the municipality.

“The IT directory at the municipality of Tirana thought the movement to Nextcloud, which is an open source platform, gives us flexibility since we won’t be dependent from providers who offer proprietary solutions. We can also develop it ourself, according to our needs, if we have the staff with the necessary qualifications to do such a thing,” Puka said.

Nextcloud also stood out not only for its use as a file sharing tool, but also the other features that make it helpful as an office productivity suite. With Nextcloud, you can edit documents simultaneously with Collabora Online, share calendars with co-workers, use an intranet messaging system, and use it on your phone too. A large selection of open source apps are available to add to an Nextcloud installation.

The municipality of Tirana celebrates the launch of their open data portal, opendata.tirana.al
The municipality of Tirana celebrates the launch of their open data portal, opendata.tirana.al. Photo from Twitter, @erionveliaj.

According to European Commission Joinup, Tirana is one of the first municipalities in southeastern Europe implementing open source technology in the public sector. This continues the municipality’s growing interest in open source, following the recent announcement of their open data portal (see it at opendata.tirana.al) and decision to collaborate with the local open source community by contributing GIS data to OpenStreetMaps. “We also hope to give a good example in the region and maybe other municipalities can follow our example,” Puka added. This further shows the municipality’s dedication to saving money on software licenses, protecting user privacy, and innovating by using open source technology.

About Tirana

Members of Open Labs Albania collaborating with the municipality of Tirana on providing GIS data for OpenStreetMaps
Members of Open Labs Albania collaborating with the municipality of Tirana on providing GIS data for OpenStreetMaps. Photo from Twitter, @erionveliaj.

Tirana is located in Albania, in southeastern Europe, on the Mediterranean Sea just above Greece. The open source community in Tirana is growing each year. This is in part to the Open Labs Albania community in the city. Open Labs Albania is a not-for-profit hackerspace that promotes free and open source technologies, open data, open technological standards, and online privacy. You can read more about them in their manifesto.

This continues a trend of exciting news for open source in the region. Earlier this year, the first-ever overnight hackathon for the UN Sustainable Development Goals happened in March, with an emphasis on sustainable projects with open source licenses. They also host Linux Weekend, an annual mini-conference to help on-board students and interested technologists to Linux and open source. However, their most well-known event is Open Source Conference Albania (OSCAL), an annual conference gathering open source developers and community members from across the world. Together with the municipality, Open Labs has helped provide advice and support for some of the municipality’s research into using open source software.

Get in touch

If you’re interested in learning more or sharing your thoughts, you can view the public announcement on the European Commission website or visit the thread on the Open Labs forums.

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