"Free and open source software enables more effective actions, with a very low cost, when financing small projects for public administrations", says Osvaldo Gervasi, president of Umbria's Open Source Competence Center (CCOS) and professor of Computer Science at University of Perugia. "This type of software is key to the re-use of applications by public administrations."
The activities of Umbria's open source centre were presented during the OpenOffice conference in the Italian city of Orvieto, on 6 November.
Among the 76 software development and implementation projects financed in 2008 and 2009 with grants from the Umbria regional administration, many have resulted in tools being used by other administrations, said Gervasi. Examples include the use of open source firewall solutions and other security tools, the use of geographic information systems (GIS), installation of desktop PCs in school computer labs, approaches to server virtualisation, the use of e-Learning software and the implementation of content management systems.
The potential for re-use is one of the most important award criteria that CCOS uses to approve projects that are submitted for funding, Gervasi explained. Other criteria are the use of international open standards and the use of open data formats for the systems.
To qualify for the CCOS grant program, projects need to publish their code using an open source licence, promote the use of this type of software and upon completion of the project, make all code and documentation publicly available.
In Orvieto, Gervasi announced that CCOS is planning an exchange plaform. This will be part of the OSOR-forge, the software development platform of the Open Source Observatory and Repository. "We plan to use the virtual forge service of the OSOR.eu; why would we create our own, if the European Commission provides us with the tools we need?"
The CCOS was established in November 2006. It was founded following the adoption that month of a law by the Umbria regional administration on the use and sharing of open source software. It made the Umbria region the first in Italy to promote the use of free and open source software by public administrations.
Previous Italian governments adopted several laws and actions related to the promotion of open source for public administrations. "Unfortunately recently, the government has started on a different path", says Gervasi, pointing to initiatives such as the digital school and e-Gov plan 2020, which are carried out with proprietary software.