Policy staffers at the Greens/European Free Alliance are offering MEPs and their staff better access to their email, using a server built with free and open source software. The staffers want the EP to increase its use of free and open source software solutions, saying the EP should rid itself of vendor lock-in.
The alternative server synchronises with the proprietary system currently in use at the EP, yet allows MEPs to access their email using more than a single proprietary email client, more than just one proprietary web browser and access their email using more than one proprietary smart phone system.
The alternative system, titled Tmail, was presented yesterday by staffers from the European Parliament Free Software User Group (Epfsug) during a lunch meeting organised by MEPs Indrek Tarand (Greens/EFA) and Olle Schmidt (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, ALDE Group).
"Until the EP gets a better email system, we plan to offer this alternative", explained Jonatan Walck, a Swedish software developer involved with the implementation of Tmail.
Freedom and competition
MEP Schmidt said he will foster the Epfsug's initiative. "The EP institute should not try to ban this. It is a sign to them that they should be implementing this kind of software at the EP."
Schmidt appreciated how the Epfsug is being supported by volunteers and non-profit organisations advocating free software and vendor independent IT systems. "These are not well-paid lobbyists hoping to keep the market locked-in, these are groups trying to increase competition and openness."
MEP Tarand introduced the Epfsug, saying how free and open source software advocates reminded him of those resisting the Soviet regime. "I spent the first half of my life in an unfree society. I did not like it much. I know how important a free society is, and that includes freedom in software, and that should include competition."
Adding to his introduction, after the meeting, he said: "It is worrying that, in spite of rulings by the European Court against monopolies, we continue to use only Microsoft products, denying the possibility to use open source."
The alternative email system is built on Dovecot, Roundcube, Davmail and OfflineImap.
European Parliament Free Software User Group (Epfsug)
Presentation on Tmail system (pdf)