For public administrations using open source software
When using open source software, public administrations should join the associated open source communities, or require that their IT service providers join on their behalf, recommends Karel De Vriendt, a recently retired European Commission official previously involved in the Commission's policies and activities involving open source software.
Using open source does not automatically imply interoperability, nor is it a guaranteed way to avoid lock-in, warned De Vriendt last week Thursday during a workshop on public administrations and open source communities, organised by the European Commission's ISA program (Interoperability Solutions for European Public Administrations). The workshop was part of the Open Source World Conference in Granada, Spain
Software products lock-in and vendor lock-in infects all other parts of the infrastructure, De Vriendt says, and that creates all kinds of legal issues, and all kinds of freedom issues.
Speaking about custom software, specifically made to support public administration tasks, De Vriendt would like to see public administrations much more collaborating, sharing and re-using this type of software: "Paying software companies many times over for the same software or almost the same software, is not a good use of public money."
Public administrations and their IT service providers should said up communities around such software, optimizing the use of public money and facilitating interoperability and standardization. De Vriendt also argues that citizens should be able to check if, for example, the software made for a tax agency correctly implements the relevant legislation. Software that implements legal and administrative procedures should be transparent. "Citizens should be free to study the code."
Using open source licenses is a perfect instrument to achieve these goals.
The former EU-official warned public administrations to study their software contracts carefully. "Make sure the code is yours, if the software is made especially for you or is maintained by contractors." Even when using existing open source software packages made by others, he urged them to build real ties to the communities of open source developers, and not to be mere consumers, benefiting from other people's work. The involvement in the relevant community could be one of the main criteria for selecting IT service providers when external assistance is needed to introduce, adapt or support the package.
Open Source World Conference
EC ISA Workshop: "The power of open source development communities"