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Italy instructs public administrations to consider using open source

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All of Italy's public administrations must consider using open source when they procure software solutions. Little publicised, the country's law on digital public administration was changed by Italy's caretaker government already on 12 December.

The government adopted a proposal by MP Marco Beltrandi (Radical italiani). That adds one sentence to article 68 of the 'Code for the Digital Administration', instructing public administrations to consider software "in the category of free and open source software."

MP Beltrandi and Luca Nicotra, secretary of Digital Agora on the same day published a statement: "For the first time our legal system recognizes the need for government to consider not only the economy but also the impact that the software itself has on our society. The adoption of free software has profound effects on the greater freedom of exchange of ideas, on the free movement of knowledge, know-how and information."

Luca Nicotra commented on the new law in an article by the Italian news paper L'Espresso published on 15 February. He says that one reason that free and open source software is not yet commonly used by public administrations is that they have close ties with proprietary software suppliers. According to Nicotra, public administrations don't seriously consider alternatives to proprietary applications, ignoring that free and open source software is creating a new and booming market for small and medium sized enterprises that provide services around this type of software. 

According to L'Espresso, several Italian public administrations over the past years adopted laws to promote the use of free and open source, including Tuscany, Veneto, Piedmont, Umbria and Lazio. The region of Puglia in 2010 made the use of open source software and open standards mandatory for its public administrations. In Sicily a similar law was proposed late last year.

Flavia Marzano, vice president of the Italian association for Open Government, a lobby group, on her blog in December writes that the change to the regulation is not drastic: "The words open code were replaced by free software." "But now that the law is updated, it could help some administrations make the correct decision when aquiring software." 

More information:
Codice dell'amministrazione digitale (in Italian)
Statement by Marco Beltrandi and Luca Nicotra (in Italian)
Espresso news item (in Italian)
Blog post by Flavia Marzano (in Italian)

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