Not having to choose

City of Nijmegen reinvigorates OSS policy, forcing interoperability

Published on: 20/02/2019
Last update: 05/04/2019

Nijmegen, the oldest and 10th largest city of the Netherlands, is reinvigorating its open source policy. Last month, the City Council unanimously adopted the resolution 'Nijmegen digitally independent'. The resolution basically requires the City to deploy both the mandatory and the recommended open standards listed by the Dutch Standardisation Forum for external as well as internal communications. At the same time, the City wants external suppliers to have sufficient experience with open source solutions, and to explicitly include open source alternatives in their consultancy recommendations.

Rather than requiring the use of open-source software, we decided to primarily focus on 'not having to choose', explains Joep Bos-Coenraad, City Counselor for GreenLeft and the proposer of the resolution. Vendor lock-in by proprietary suppliers makes it hard to migrate to free and open source software solutions. For example, when a mail server supports only the proprietary Microsoft Exchange protocol, Linux users cannot use their open-source mail clients to connect. So in this case, the choice of operating system is influenced by the choice of mail server. Another example is when mobile devices can only connect to an application using a proprietary authentication tool that limits the choice of both software and hardware. So the most urgent task now should be to force the interoperability of software.

Migrating gradually

Nijmegen's open source strategy goes back to 2003, when a Council majority embraced an initiative to stimulate the use of open source software by the City for reasons of transparency/privacy, sustainability/maintainability, safety, and to avoid lock-in on both software and hardware. In 2006 the City was one of the signatorees of the 'Open Municipalities Manifest'.

That same year, the City of Nijmegen commissioned a study on how to migrate from proprietary to open-source software. The outcome, however, was that the current software was seen to meet the needs of the users and to be sufficiently reliable. So the recommendation was to migrate gradually over time rather than rush into new suppliers. Unfortunately, this migration hasn't moved as fast as it could have, Bos-Coenraad says. That's why we submitted this resolution introducing requirements and providing insight into the considerations that are made. In addition, the Council has been promised annual status updates on this matter.


With its renewed policy, Nijmegen is in good company. The City of Amsterdam is one of the more vocal proponents of the use of free and open source software. It relies on open source software to build and deploy applications that combine geographic maps and other data, creating solutions for the City's maintenance crews, police, fire and rescue services, and easing interactions between citizens and the administration.

The City of Amsterdam is contributing to open source projects like Decidim, an online tool for citizen participation being developed by the City of Barcelona (Spain). Amsterdam is also working on open source projects involving Aarhus (Denmark), Ghent (Belgium), Gothenburg (Sweden), Hamburg (Germany), and Helsinki (Finland).

In November 2018, Amsterdam joined Barcelona and New York in a ' Global Coalition To Protect Digital Rights', a set of principles to create policies, tools and resources to promote and protect the online rights of residents and visitors.