While breaking no rules

Dutch government shares source of personal records database


On Wednesday, the Dutch government published the Java source code of the Personal Records Database (BRP) system, which was intended to replace the current Municipal Personal Records Database. The replacement software had been in development since 2012, but never went into production. Development of the software was halted in July.

The country’s parliament had requested publication of the source code, a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Interior explained. “Millions of euro evaporated in this project, and sharing the source code offers at least something back to society.”

The BRP code is published using the Affero General Public License AGPL. In his letter to the Parliament, Minister of the Interior Raymond Knops explains that the licence terms ensure that changes to the source code will also be publicly available, further encouraging reuse.

Source code - the same image was used for the announcement by the Dutch government of the publication of the BRP source code

Edge case

The publication of the BRP source code is a special case, the ministry says. It does not break the government rules of conduct minimising interference with the private sector.

Last month, the ministry published a report that shows how these rules of conduct are an obstacle for Dutch public services that want to share software as open source. The study recommends removing the barrier, as the sharing of source code lowers ICT cost and boosts the economy.

The BRP publication does not imply that the rules can now be ignored. The parliament’s wish makes this unique, the ministry says. The rules of conduct are for generic software solutions developed by public services, where sharing could frustrate companies wanting to offer similar solutions.

Before next summer, the ministry will publish a vision paper on public sector sharing of software source code as open source.

More information:

Announcement (in Dutch)
Source code on GitHub
Gartner: make government source code open source
About the Personal Records Database (BRP)

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