Open source trade associations from France, Germany and Finland have joined forces to create the Association Professionnelle Européenne du Logiciel Libre (APELL). The new umbrella organisation was announced in Brussels (Belgium) on Friday, the day before Fosdem - the Free and Open Source Software Developers’ European Meeting, the continent’s largest open source conference.
APELL wants to make European policymakers aware of the growing economic and strategic importance of the open source industry. In Europe, this sector comprises mostly small and medium sized companies, APELL’s founders say. “It is time the Commission and the other European institutions recognise that their actions, plans and policies to support open source should focus on supporting these SMEs,” said Stéfane Fermigier, co-chair of CNLL, one of the three founding members of APELL. CNLL, the Union des Entreprises du Logiciel Libre et du Numérique Ouvert, represents some 300 free and open source software companies in France.
“The open source sector is very dynamic. While we are perhaps not as fancy as Internet unicorns or large ICT corporations, all of us together create enormous value and employment opportunities for Europe,” he added.
In December, CNLL published research showing that, across Europe, the number of jobs related to open source software will grow by some 8%, to over 250,000, in the next four years. In 2020, CNLL expects total revenue for European open source companies to reach EUR 25 billion, or 25% of the worldwide open source market.
“We have been wanting to create this umbrella group ever since 2009,” said Peter Ganten, chairman of Germany’s OSB (Open Source Business) Alliance (Bundesverband für digitale Souveränität, or federal association for digital sovereignty), which represents some 160 companies. “Now is the right time to follow up on the new Commission’s plans for digital sovereignty.” Mr Ganten expects APELL will contribute to a Commission study on the impact of open source software and hardware, and develop a common position on digital sovereignty, especially for the cloud and operating systems.
APELL also wants to create a more detailed picture of the European open source business ecosystem. The group hopes that new members – national free and open source business associations anywhere in Europe – will soon join the new umbrella group. Individual open source companies can join APELL too, though they will not have voting rights, Mr Ganten said.
“We have taken an important step towards creating a single voice for European open source businesses,” Timo Väliharju, director of Finland’s COSS (Suomen avoimien tietojärjestelmien keskus, or the Finnish Centre for Open Systems and Solutions), which has 55 ICT companies among its members, told the European Commission’s Open Source Observatory. “APELL will make European decision makers understand the business opportunities of open source to the European digital economy.”
APELL will soon be registered in Brussels, OSBA and CNLL said at the EU Open Source Policy Meeting.