The Mancomún project in Galicia (Mancomun)

Published on: 20/11/2008

Started in May 2006 as an initiative of the Xunta government, Mancomún is designed to support Galicia's progress towards the information society. The project promotes growth in the regional ICT sector through the advantages of free software and open standards. For the past two years, the Mancomún portal has been spreading knowledge about open source. The initiative has organised numerous projects such as the translation of free software applications into the local language. Now Mancomún is taking the next step, transforming itself into a regional reference centre for open source.

Policy Context

After one year of preparations, the regional government in 2007 published the "Plano Estratéxico Galego da Sociedade da Información (PEGSI) 2007-2010", the Galician Strategic Plan for the Information Society. The plan has a total budget of 800 million Euro. The plan is the political basis of the Mancomún project. It calls for the adoption of open standards and free software in the Xunta and the Galician society. A priority is to allow citizens and businesses to interact with the administration without being obliged to use a specific software tool for the purpose. Regarding the private sector, the plan's goal is to make room for innovative business models, and create favourable conditions for Galician companies to compete in the marketplace. Mancomún is run as a project of a public foundation. It is a formally independent entity which is fully funded by the Ministry for Innovation and Industry. The foundation's stated objective is to promote the industrial development of Galicia.

Description of target users and groups

Mancomún supports various partners from the public sector, the educational sector (universities), and the private sector. exemplary for this is the creation of a Galician association of free software, where Mancomún helped substantially. Furthermore Mancomún is in close contact with the 3 universities of Galicia, and provides them with support for developing software projects.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

Mancomún works through a set of contracts between the Xunta and other legal entities. One of the first contracts was with the Galician GNU/Linux user groups. Under this contract, the Xunta gave financial support to the user group's efforts of publicly promoting open source software. The groups, in return, agreed to continue their promotional efforts, and to generate content that is being published on the Mancomún portal. After this first phase, it was necessary to have people to organise, edit and publish the material generated by the user groups. This time, the contract partner was the Galician Supercomputing Centre in Finisterre. Under the contract with the Xunta, the Supercomputing centre took over the work with the GNU/Linux user groups. It also hired four people with a technical profile and one PR person, who organises events and builds contacts with the commercial sector. The next step was to build links to Galicia's three universities. Each of these universities is interested in developing free software projects, and the Xunta agreed to financially support those efforts. The universities in their turn write articles and reports on recent developments in open source, which are then published by the team at the Supercomputing Centre.

Technology solution

The Mancomún platform itself runs on 13 quad-core servers, all of them using the Debian GNU/Linux operating system, and Xen as a virtual machine monitor. Each of the servers has 16 GB of RAM, 1 Terabyte of storage, and 1Gbps network cards. The web portal itself uses Typo3 as content management system. Initially the team wanted to develop a localized version of GNU/Linux, but this was considered an unnecessary duplication of effort. There is however great demand for Galego language packages that are easy to integrate in existing systems by local companies and the open source community. The team thus works on this continuously since 2006.

Technology choice: Open source software

Main results, benefits and impacts

Mancomún's work can not really be measured in financial terms, its impact however has shown already great success. An important tool for Mancomún is the "Red de dinamización de la sociedad de la información" (Dynamisation Network for the Information Society). This currently consists of 85 offices around Galicia, each staffed by a "dynamiser" who works to help the population bridge the digital gap. Through this network, Mancomún organises seminars, workshops and other events to overcome the digital divide that exists between women and men, as well as between younger and older people. In a study of its own, Mancomún has found that the awareness of businesspeople to free software has risen from 40% to 70% in the course of a single year. In secondary education, the change is even more striking: Awareness has increased from a mere 10% to 60%. The image of open source software has improved a lot through Mancomún's efforts, and it is now linked with positive values, such as efficiency in public spending. According to studies the project has conducted, both companies and individuals want to increase their use of free software.

Return on investment

Return on investment: Not applicable / Not available

Track record of sharing

Mancomún maintains a vibrant network of contacts with a variety of other bodies and initiatives. Within Spain, Mancomún works both with the central government and regional administrations. Cooperation is especially close with the Andalusia's regional government, which has developed a large-scale free software strategy of its own. The project also has good connections with CENATIC, Spain's national reference centre for open source. Given the proximity of language, the project also has excellent contacts in Portugal. Here, most of the interaction happens through the respective associations of free software companies. Further afield, Mancomún works together with Brazil in the community around the OpenOffice desktop productivity suite. Recently, the project established contacts with Angola, yet another Portugese-speaking country, through open source associations. At the European level, Mancomún puts great emphasis on working with the initiatives of the the European Commission's IDABC programme, in particular the OSOR and the Semantic Interoperability Centre (SEMIC). The project is also participating in the process to redefine the European Interoperability Framework (EIF).

Lessons learnt

For the project it was, and still is important to create and exploit synergies. The project's approach is to look for initiatives in the area of free software and open standards, and help them to work together. This means that most of the results that the project has achieved are indirect, and many represent small steps. According to Mancomún's own findings the awareness of open source software and its advantages has grown, but this does not directly translate into greater deployment of this type of software. Open source companies now have a forum to talk to each other, but this has not led to a confirmed boost in this sector of the local economy. Yet this sort of indirect influence is a crucial element of Mancomún's bottom-up strategy. Rather than mandating free software and open standards, it helps people discover their advantages by themselves, and provides them with at least some of the tools they require to use these technologies according to their own needs. This may very likely turn out to be a more sustainable approach than a straightforward policy push, which might generate resentment along with some quick results. Even though the project is set up as a public foundation, which in theory gives it political independence, Mancomún hopes to involve large enterprises such as IBM and HP into its future work, in order to guarantee its existence.

Scope: Regional (sub-national)