The about eighty members of Sambruk, a Swedish association of municipalities jointly developing electronic services, are debating if and how to use open source for their IT projects. The group started an research and development project to garner support for open source in the public sector.
Claes-Olof Olsson, Sambruk's managing director and Anna Öhrwall Rönnbäck, Industrial Economics and Management researcher at Linköping University presented on Sambruk's open source initiatives during a conference organised by the Open Source Software Observatory and Repository (osor.eu) on 14 November.
The Sambruk association was formed in 2003 to jointly develop specifications for public administration electronic applications and to prevent vendor lock-in. "We want to be pragmatic and not dogmatic users of open source", Olsson said.
The association has so far developed two applications that are based on open source. One is a module used for electronic data exchange between government agencies and municipalites, the other is an e-service application aiding recruitment. And according to Rönnbäck some of the members are using several other open source applications.
"We are in a transition from supplier-controlled to customer-driven software development and procurement. We need to change our dialogue and relationship with IT suppliers", the two explained during the OSOR conference. Some of the challenges the group is facing are that the software and IT services providers are organised in monolithic silos, which fosters self-serving business models. Complex administrative processess in Sweden's municipalties are another hindrance, Olsson adds. "Municipalities nor the IT vendors possess sufficient competence to analyse and re-invent this business process."
The Sambruk members are about to create an alternative, mixing open source and proprietary models, called 'community source'. Members will for a limited period get free access to applications during which the software can be changed and improved. The group hopes this will ensure development responsibility and a clear development roadmap.
The group is now discussing whether the communities retains ownership of improvements they make to the applications or what kind of IT services they are willing to be charged for.
"It is too early to share information about the community source", says Öhrwall Rönnbäck. "It is still being discussed on the Sambruk Research & Development forum and is still up for discussion at the Sambruk Board."
During the conference, the two announced the start of a research to practically develop support for the use of open source in the Swedish public sector. The research, titled Bossanova (Business models for Open Source Software in the public sector: New opportunities for customers and suppliers) will run for three years.
Öhrwall Rönnbäck: "Among the results we expect are business models and methods for IT suppliers to procure, develop, administer and service open source software for public electronic services."
Sambruk presentation (pdf)