The e-government services of the government of South Tyrol are automatically tested for compatibility with free software desktops. It uses scripts that try out online services, written by software developers working for the TIS Innovation Park in Bolzano, the capital of this autonomous province in Italy. "Our government understands the importance of free software", says Shaun Schutte, one of the developers. "We help to make sure their services are 100 percent compliant with open standards."
Schutte, one of the developers at the TIS Innovation Park Free Software and Open Technologies Centre, demonstrated the test at the Fosdem conference in Brussel on Sunday 3 February.
The South Tyrol government is increasingly moving its services to the web, Schutte says. Examples include the filling of property tax-returns or, for first-time house-owners, submitting requests for financial support. The administration also allows citizens to use the Internet to register children at a kindergarten or pay the invoices for waste collection. The government aims to make all these e-services accessible to users of free software, aiming not to force the use of proprietary systems on anyone.
The free software resource centre at Bolzano's TIS has written a series of compatibility tests for the e-government services. The project is financed in part by the European Regional Development Fund.
The developers fully automate the testing of web services using desktop systems running either GNU/Linux systems or OpenBSD. The scripts first start-up virtual desktop machines and then use these to log-in to the website offering the government services. The scripts then walk through the web service step by step, logging all responses and errors. This way the scripts try several flavours of GNU/Linux and BSD desktops.
For logging in to the government web services they use Sikuli, open source software for testing user interfaces. Once logged in, the scripts switch to using Selenium, open source tools for testing web applications.
The results are presented in HTML. The output can be used by the government to fix issues, or by the TIS team itself to improve the scripts. "We can even use them to check correct functioning of updates to any of the most-common Linux distributions."
All the scripts are publicly available on the Github software repository.
The free software resource centre would now like to get in touch with open source e-ID software developers in Belgium and Estonia, says Schutte. "These countries are very advanced in this area. It would be great if we could develop this system further together."