For public services that are considering how to contribute to open source, Matthieu Faure, an open source solution architect at Adullact has a practical recommendation: “Open source cannot be told what to do, but what you want can be created.” His advice is to “simply contribute. Submit code, supply documentation, it can be anything.” He encourages public services to 'start doing', and not to spend too much time preparing for that.
His remarks came at the end of a workshop dedicated to the security and national policies related to the use of open source software in public administrations. The workshop was part of the Paris Open Source Summit and included two presentations.
The first presentation was on the European Commission’s EU-FOSSA initiative showed how the initiative is working to improve the security of the open source software in use in EU institutions. The project is organising bounties and hackathons, aspiring to make this kind of contribution to open source a standard procedure.
The security of software, in general, is perceived as a barrier to the public sector use of open source, introduces Saranjit Arora, a software developer involved in the EU-FOSSA 2 project: “How to organise the support?” However, as it turned out, software developers working for the European Commission already had working relations with many of the open source tools used by the EC. When the EC reached out to these projects, to see if and how it could contribute to them, these projects responded positively and were excited to hear that the EC wanted to talk with them.
Rayna Stamboliyska, an IT security and compliance expert, and one of the panellists, urged public services to change and embrace the open source culture. This includes making everybody aware of all of the facets of IT security. “It’s a change in culture for all, rather than a problem for IT departments to deal with”, she said. Paulo Ribeiro, vice-president of the Portuguese Association of Open Source Software Enterprises (ESOP) added that Europe’s governments should jointly make open source a priority. “We should use it to create a European IT infrastructure.”
The second presentation focused on the new Commission Open Source Strategy, which demonstrated the use of open source software since the early 2000.
“The European Commission will use open source to drive change in the industry,” suggested Marek Przybyszewski, information systems architect for the European Commission. His talk kicked-off a panel discussion addressing the main challenges faced by public institutions using open source software. Maha Shaikh, a senior lecturer at King’s College London, cautioned that government-sponsored contributions could impact open source communities, while Laurent Joubert, a representative of the French central government’s IT agency, Dinsic, encouraged public services to use open source to not only get only companies but also citizens involved, and restore trust in public services. Daniel Melin, ICT procurement specialist for the Swedish government, urged the Commission to do more to ensure Europe does not remain a digital colony of a handful of ICT giants. “It should actively push open source, and make it a requirement for public services’ clouds” he said.
At the Paris Open Source Summit, the European Commission also presented the Joinup Licensing Assistant. The assistant aims to facilitate the selection of licences and increase users' understanding of them, helping them asses the compatibility or interoperability of a licence with other licences, its effective use, and the support available to the developers/recipient community.
The final words at the European Commission’s workshop were given by Emanuele Baldacci, director of Digital Services at the Directorate-General for Informatics. Referring to the new Digital Strategy of the European Commision, announced on 21 November, he predicted that the Commission will make great strides towards the promotion of open source. “We will commit to make open source part of the political agenda for government digitalisation.”