IT workers from public administrations in at least seven of the 25 European member states last week began a user group to enable cross border collaboration on Open Source projects. First countries to join the User Group are Belgium, Slovenia, Germany, France, Spain, Sweden and the Netherlands.
The working group was announced at a special meeting on Open Source for civil administrators organised last week in Badajoz, Spain, by the European Commission's IDABC (Interoperable Delivery of European eGovernment Services to public Administrations, Businesses and Citizens).
Oliver Schneider, an IT worker at the Belgian Ministry of Labour and eGovernment called on his fellow IT workers to join him in developing applications for civil administrations. "At a previous meeting, we discovered that Open Source content management systems for city councils had been developed simultaneously in Belgium, England and the Netherlands. I bet if I look hard enough I will find another CMS tailored to civil municipalities."
The IDABC's Open Source Observatory and Repository project (OSOR) is working on a catalogue of Open Source software that is useful for eGovernment. "But building a list of Open Source projects is not enough", says Schneider. "We need to start working together."
Developing software across EU borders can be surprisingly difficult for public administrations, experienced Schneider. When fourteen Belgian city councils working on an electronic procurement system decided to involve some of their French colleagues, they ran into a maze of legal constraints. "Sorting out the puzzle around the process of tendering would have taken us a year, so we decided to stick to one country. We found just one example of such European co-development, the high-speed train in France and Spain. For this project legal changes were needed that required involving the Parliaments in both countries. At the moment cross border development is impossible."
This should not stop the civil IT workers from working together on Open Source projects, Schneider believes. He promised to find between five to ten Belgian colleagues to join the OSOR Users group -- not yet the official name. He was joined spontaneously by his colleagues from Slovenia, Germany, France, Sweden, Spain and the Netherlands. "It is a great idea," commented another participant. "I can not personally commit to it, but I will find others who will join you."
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