Sweden's public administrations, municipalities and health care are increasingly turning to free and open source software solutions, following legal clarifications made to a public procurement framework contract. From April 2011, a new framework agreement makes providers of services based on this type of software legally responsible for issues pertaining to copyright, licences and distribution. This has made public administrations less hesitant about using open source, says Daniel Melin, one of the software procurement specialists at Kammarkollegiet, a government agency.
"Previously, public administrations were nervous about being made responsible for distribution of open source software, or feared getting tied into a legal quagmire over licences. With the new framework agreement, that responsibility is clearly put to the IT service providers."
"Public administrations that spend the tax payers' money on IT services, should give those solutions back to the tax payer. The best way to do that, is by making the software open. But a municipality does not want to become responsible for the distribution. This framework agreement makes the IT service provider responsible for distribution of source code, be it one line, a module or a whole collection of newly written applications."
Melin says this also prevents that modifications and improvements to open source applications are kept exclusive. "Public administration's do not have to worry about this. The IT service provider is made responsible, and if the public administrations wants to move to a different IT service provider, the code will be available."
Public administrations can use Kammerkollegiet's framework agreement to purchase IT services based on open source software from any of five preselected IT companies and their subcontractors. "Almost every open source software specialist available in Sweden and several in Finland and the United States are involved in this agreement."
It is the third time that Kammarkollegiet has drawn up a framework agreement on open source IT solutions. And according to Melin, public administration's use of free and open source has been increasing some 15 to 20 percent per year, over the last four years. "We want it to grow a lot faster, and one of the ways to do that, is to remove public administration's anxieties."
In 2010 public administrations in Sweden used Kammarkollegiet's open source framework contract to purchase IT solutions worth 6 million Euro. For contrast, public administrations spent 100 million Euro on proprietary software and services, using a different framework contract prepared by the Kammarkollegiet.