The Barcelona City Council is actively promoting the use and reuse of free software, open source solutions and open standards beyond their City Hall. This is outlined in the Barcelona Digital City strategy set by the Commissioner for Technology and Digital Innovation. To support this strategy, Barcelona has created an open source team to help internal departments that need to migrate to open source, providing them with digitally clear ethical standards, guidelines and best practices, as well as, supporting them throughout the whole process, including licencing and publishing the solutions on the municipal’s GitHub space. The Barcelona City Council Open Source Team also started to actively promote a citywide FLOSS community and the dissemination of their solutions on platforms such as Joinup, to ensure they reach the maximum number of people and public sector organisations.
“For us the Joinup site is a great dissemination platform for Barcelona’s open source solutions that can help us reach all European Public Administrations and enhance collaboration amongst cities at European level. This is vital for the success of open government strategies based on transparency, openness, ethical use of technology and collaboration.“, said Francesca Bria, Chief Technology and Digital Innovation Officer of Barcelona City Council.
“It is a very easy to use, user-friendly, supported platform that will allow you to share your solution, not only with your closest connections but, with all public administrations in Europe“, she added.
“What we like the most about Joinup is how easy and fast it is to upload and promote a new solution, as well as for the support team to answer questions or validate a new solution.”
Sharing open source projects, a critical process for public administrations
“We think sharing open source projects is key for cities and public administrations that want to collaborate and create a critical mass for the shared open source solutions. However, this should be planned from the beginning and it should take into account different elements that could make publishing and sharing easier,“ Francesca said.
“First of all, public administrations should clearly incentivise the use of free software, open source, and open standards in their digital strategy. The key element here is the procurement process. Specific clauses need to be added in the public contracts, so all parties know that the developed solution will be based on free software and will be promoted with an open license. Barcelona for instance has created a Technology Procurement Guide that other cities could use to move in this direction.
Secondly, they should include agile methods in the development of digital services, and design a free software and open solution from the start so that it will not be needed to adapt when opening it.
Moreover, licensing is a critical part, and public administration should be careful with the components used in the creation of the digital service as they can restrict the licences that can be used. It is important to define licencing in the public procurement process and to do training for public officials that draft the contracts.
Finally, dissemination is very important since it allows creating a wider users community and maximising the impact of the open source service. Using platforms such as join up are absolutely essential to reach the maximum number of organizations.”
“This is not just about technology,” she added, “but it is a much bigger process of change to make governments more open, transparent and collaborative. Public administration should invest resources to create a community around the service and make sure it is maintained; otherwise it will be difficult to guarantee its success. This is an important economic measure, since it can provide new resources for the local industry, SMEs and startups that can work with public administration to co-develop local services and solutions. This can eventually become a European and global market that will help SMEs and the European industry to compete in the digital market.”
This is not only about technological change
“Digital transformation is not only about technological change, but also about structural organizational and cultural changes.”, Francesca said. “Barcelona wants to use the opportunity of digitalisation to make governments more open, transparent, efficient and collaborative and move towards technological sovereignty. We have defined a strategy that mandates for the use of ethical, privacy-enhancing, open standards and free software solutions that can benefit all citizens.”
“The digital transformation involves a big organisational and cultural change. Not only we strive to use open source solutions whenever it is possible, by investing over 80% of new IT budget on free software and open source solutions, but we are also undergoing a cultural change in the organization to ensure that all civil servants are responsible for developing Barcelona’s solutions, understand the need for open source solution and are properly trained to do so. To this end, we have conducted specific training sessions, clear guidance, and we offer support to those civil servants that need to open a solution.
We also had to change procurement standards, to introduce Free Software and open source, and to make sure that government legislation allows a platform, which is managed and governed by a community. The advantage is that all the code is accessible, reusable, and auditable because it is free software.
The ecosystem of small and medium-sized businesses is critical for us. We want to make sure that Barcelona's procurement policy allows them to work with the city administration and develop future applications and services that can improve our city. Working in open source makes it easier to work with local entrepreneurs and companies that respect users' rights and freedoms, and protect privacy and data sovereignty. Free Software allows us to work with communities, use the talent of Free Software developers and the local industry, and collaborate with other cities and public administration on common projects.
To enable this change, Barcelona has a specific Ethical Digital Standards Policy Toolkit – a regulation, which states that, the digital information and infrastructure that we use should be a public good, owned and controlled by the citizens. We also mandate privacy and security by design and the use of encryption as a human right.”
Interesting open solutions developed by Barcelona’s City Council:
There is more to come!
‘We are currently developing CityOS, an open source based advance analytics platform to have a unified view of the information of the city,“ Francesca added. “The platform will help in the management and transparency of the city by enabling a fast, efficient and reliable integration and correlation of information (structured and unstructured) coming from sensors, municipal information systems and external information systems. This project will allow us to make the most of our city data, while preserving people’s privacy and data protection. The ethical and responsible data management is at the core of our strategy, and we are also developing
projects such as DECODE5 that use decentralised and privacy-enhancing technologies such as blockchains to give back data sovereignty to citizens, so that they can decide what data they want to keep private, what data they want to share with whom and on what terms.”
Do you have questions about Barcelona’s solutions? Please send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org