Thank you to all the participants who attended the OSOR webinar on open source software policies in European countries held on 8 April 2020. Here is a short summary of the event for anyone who missed out.
Country reports on OSS policies
The OSOR team is carrying out research on every country within the EU and the United Kingdom to compile country intelligence reports on open source software policies for the OSOR Knowledge Centre. Building on these country reports, the OSOR team will publish a comparative analysis studying trends and the various strengths of open source software policies throughout Europe. The webinar offered a preliminary glimpse into the analysis that has already been carried out for 23 countries.
Our research shows that only 9 of the 23 analysed countries have public sector bodies that address open source software policies. The main roles of these bodies are policymaking, coordination, implementation, support, and/or endorsement of open source software. These bodies take the form of agencies, entities, and services within ministries responsible for digitalisation.
Interestingly, some countries (Belgium, Cyprus, Italy, Slovenia and Spain, and Sweden) have several bodies. For example, in Sweden, there are two very different bodies - the Agency for Digital Government working on policymaking and implementation of open source software and the Swedish National Procurement Services that acts towards the endorsement and promotion of open source software. Similarly to Sweden, Slovenia also has a policymaking body, the Directorate of Information Society and Informatics, while the Information Society Office acts as a promoter of open source software. Some countries address open source through a single body. This is the case with the Danish Agency for Digitisation, the UK Government Digital Service, and French Etalab within the Interministerial Directorate for Digital Services (DINUM).
We also looked at legal and political initiatives with regard to open source software. Out of 73 identified initiatives, only 19 are of a legal nature. Legal initiatives can be defined as parliamentary resolutions, laws, directives, and decrees that form part of the legal framework. Within the legal aspect, there are differences in the level of importance placed on open source software. For instance, Italy and Malta are the only countries where the legal initiatives concern open source software specifically. In all the other countries (Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, and Spain), open source software is mentioned in various initiatives mainly addressing eGovernment.
In turn, guidelines, political declarations, governmental programmes, and strategies form part of the political framework. Political initiatives are much more dispersed thanks to national political strategies used to implement them. Similarly, open source software is the core focus in a minority of cases, including Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Malta, Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden. In most of the other cases, open source software is mentioned in ICT strategies (Greece and Portugal), Digital Agendas (Germany, Romania, and Slovakia) or Government Programmes (Belgium and Lithuania). Overall, there are four main clusters which these legal and political initiatives fall into: Promotion of open source software in public administrations, Development and use of open source software solutions, Adoption of open source software in public administrations, and Open source software in procurement.
In the course of our research, we have so far analysed 200 public sector open source software initiative across the 23 countries. The data collected shows that, in most countries, the use of open source software in public administrations is gradually increasing. In many cases, public sector entities work with the support of open source associations and communities to promote and develop open source software.
Data collected to date during this research has been published as country reports and factsheets. The data will be further analysed to provide a consolidated view on the current status of open source policies in 28 European countries. The study will be published on OSOR by mid-2020.
Bastien Guerry (Free Software Officer in DINUM, France) and Leonardo Favario (Open Source Project Leader in the Department for the Digital Transformation, Italy) delivered lightning talks in the webinar, sharing their insights about their country’s journey towards using open source software in government, and highlighting the impact of OSS policies in their work.
Bastien’s talk focused on the French Government’s pragmatic approach to open source software. He emphasised the existence of a vibrant community of civil servants who develop solutions for public administrations and how the Blue Hat movement helps citizens to engage with the open source movement in France. Additionally, the major role that open source software associations, such as Adullact, play in France was mentioned, with a focus on how they can act as a bridge between the central government and cities or small agencies. With the difficult ongoing public health situation very much in mind, Bastien also pointed to a successful open source solution developed by the French government and for which Bastien was directly responsible - an online COVID-19 self-evaluation bot. The current health crisis has showcased the resilience of open source software, thus leading to increased support for creating new open source solutions and further developing existing solutions in the public sector.
Leonardo discussed the Italian Government’s approach to open source software. He is part of Developers Italia, a community of developers that is the main hub for developing and sharing code for the delivery of public services and a community of legal stature. The community’s strategy builds upon three components: regulation (guidelines on the acquisition and reuse of software for public administrations), tools (software catalogue and templates), and community (fora, hackathons, and meetings). Leonardo closed his talk by explaining the current challenges being met, including populating the catalogue, promoting community engagement, and prompting public administrations to go open by default.
The supporting slides presented during the webinar are available for download below.