EU governments should use open standards and interoperable systems to deliver electronic government services, EU ministers and the European Commission agreed earlier this week. They also stated they would promote the reuse of public sector information.
The ministers declared to "embed innovation and cost effectiveness into eGovernment through the systematic promotion of open standards and interoperable systems, development of EU wide e-authentication schemes and proactive development of e-invoicing, e-procurement and pre-commercial procurement."
It was one of 29 points agreed upon during a meeting of all ministers responsible for information society from European member states and the European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda.
The ministers also stated they will promote the reuse of public sector data. They expect this to result in user-driven innovations to government services. This should make governments more efficient, reduce the administrative burden and help to lower carbon emissions.
Open standards are an important element in many open source applications, as these are freely accessible. Development of this type of software can run into problems when using closed standards or when using standards that require payment of royalties. Such standards may change unexpectedly or limit how the software can be used.
Better at it
The French Gendarmerie compared open source and proprietary applications, and concluded that open source generally is better at handling open standards, said Lieutenant-Colonel Xavier Guimard in a presentation in 2009.
Open Forum Europe, an open source advocacy organisation, welcomed the plan in a statement: "This should send a clear message across all member states. For us there is no more important an agenda item if Europe really means business about openness."
April, a French association promoting open source software and open standards, also applauded the agreement. "By basing the e-government on open standards and interoperability, the EU will finally open up to competition, innovation, collaboration and sharing inherent in free software."
Granada declaration (pdf)
Statement by April (in French)
Too Linux news item (in French)