Dortmund goes open source first

City of Dortmund commits to preferring open source

Published on: 03/05/2021

In what was likely the biggest success of the independent civil society organisation Do-FOSS, the city council of Dortmund adopted two resolutions, setting out the goal for the city to make the use and development of open source the norm by 2025. With this decision, adopted in February 2021 and published later, the city is taking a step toward more control of its IT infrastructure.

The decision is connected to the adoption of the new digitalisation masterplan “Digital Public Administration - Working 4.0” of the city, but defines going further than decided in this plan. Concretely, the city administration decided to “Use open source software where possible. Software developed or commissioned for development by the administration is made available to the general public.” (own translation)

The unanimous decision of the city council means that a decision to procure proprietary software now has to be reasoned, including why there was no open source software available. Thus, officials working with software in the city offices won’t feel the change immediately, but will notice it as new software is procured.

The Do-FOSS initiative, founded in 2013 with the goal to foster a democratic and lawful digitalisation, has advocated for this change, seeing open source as a critical component in achieving its goals. The initiative is somewhat unique in working closely with the city on the city’s digitalisation strategy. Through close contact and advocacy, the initiative convinced the data protection official, the human resources department and IT department that the switch makes sense, before at the last local election all candidates for mayor were pro-open source.

The decision of the city builds on significant work in the past. Already in 2016, the city was levelling the playing field between proprietary and open source software. In 2018, the city’s master plan added open source software and in the same year, the city adopted a decision on Free Software and Open Standards, detailing the city’s digitalisation plan. Active are not only the Do-FOSS group, but also the Open Municipal NRW Institute (OK.NRW) and the FOSS-AG student network for example published a joint report with the city of Dortmund on the “Investigation of the potential of Free Software and Open Standards” in 2020.