Software applications written by or for public authorities and public organisations in the Basque Country will by default be made available to others as open source, starting this July, the autonomous region's government decreed. The law also instructs public administrations to re-use software made available by other government organisations.
Modernising public administration requires a massive use of technology and that makes sustainable investments, openness and re-use essential, the Spanish newspaper El Pais on 14 May quoted Idoia Mendia, the region's Minister of Justice and Administration.
According to Cenatic, the Spanish government's resource centre for open source, almost half of all public administrations in Spain had software applications made in 2011. Only 18 percent of this was made available as open source.
The Basque decree instructs its public administrations to make their applications available on Irekia, the region's open source software development website. This repository is linked with those of Andalusia, Catalonia, Extremadura and Galicia. These repositories are federated at the Technology Transfer Centre, part of the Spain's Ministry of Finance and Public Administration. They are also federated at the European Commission's open source repository, Joinup.
"Collaboration is most important", El Pais quotes Elena Pérez Barredo, Basque Deputy Minister of Public Administration. That is why public administrations are told to use these repositories, to find applications that can be reused whole or in part.
Public authorities that want to develop new software applications will have to explain why they can't use existing software or parts of existing software. "It is better to invest in improving what exists, than to spend what little money we have available on new software."
The law makes an exception for software projects where making the code available as open source would negatively affect public security and for a handful of commercial software development projects involving public authorities. El Pais gives as example a joint project of a hospital and a company, developing software to improve the lives of the chronically ill, and where the investments in research and development are handed to the company. In both cases, public administrations will have to explain why they cannot use open source.