Gratis, but not free

Czech company donates road tax solution to government, considers making code available

Published on: 27/02/2020
Last update: 28/02/2020

Actum Digital, a Czech software company, is considering publishing the code of the road tax portal that was created during a weekend hackathon at the end of January. Publication would allow others to evaluate the quality of the code and the scope of the services it provides. However, the software cannot be shared as open source, says Actum CEO Tomáš Vondráček: “We agreed with the hackathon participants that the rights would be passed to us, and that the work would be given to the Czech state for free.”

The hackathon was organised by Mr Vondráček and others after a public outcry over a CZK 401 million (about EUR 16 million) contract for a road tax system (also known as vignette) that was awarded by the transport ministry without a public tender. According to press reports, the contract was scrapped and the transport minister Vladimír Kremlík replaced following criticism by trade unions and politicians, including the Czech prime minister.

A person sitting behind a table decked with papers, talking to a hackathon participant.
Idnes TV reports on the vignette hackathon

Actum CEO Vondráček told the European Commission Open Source Observatory (OSOR) he believes that none of the 60 or so developers who participated in the hackathon expected the code to be open source. Actum has considered publishing it as open source, but this would require the company to renegotiate with the contributors, he explained.

One of the developers who participated in the hackathon confirmed to OSOR that this was agreed beforehand.

The road tax portal that was built by the hackathon participants is fully functional, at least in technical terms. Three different types of vignettes can be bought online in token amounts up to CZK 3 (EUR 0.12). However, the vignettes are invalid, and any money collected by the portal will be donated to Kolečko, a charity that helps children with serious injuries.

The code has now been transferred to the transport ministry, which has not yet replied to emailed requests for comments.

More information:

AFP news item
Engnews24h news item
Prague Monitor news item
IDNES news item (in Czech)
Novinky news item (in Czech)
Česká Noviny news item (in Czech)