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Latvia's Minister for Electronic Government Affairs Signe Bāliņa says open standards are key to improving efficiency and transparency in government.
Open technology and open standards are fundamental to efficient communication with the government, the minister argued in her opening address at the Latvian Open Technology Conference in Riga on 12 November. She said the government needs to use open IT systems to allow citizens and businesses to communicate easily with the government. "We think it is very important these systems are open and based on open technologies and open standards."
The conference in Riga, organised by the Latvian Open Technology Association (LATA), drew more than 250 participants from the central government, municipalities, IT firms and universities. LATA wanted to update the attendants on open source developments in the country and the region.
Several Latvian businesses and institutions described their use of open source software. The telecoms company Lattelecom for example presented on the use of open source in their data centres and the Latvian University showed how it uses the open source e-learning system Moodle to offer on-line education. The university also employs open source for its data storage and to create grid computing services.
Marat Guriev, a representative of IBM in Eastern Europe and Asia, gave an overview of developments on open source software and open standards in Russia. He described how the Russian military has been working on its own version of GNU/Linux, parts of which have recently been declassified by the All-Russian Scientific and Research Institute of Control Automation in the Non-Industrial Sphere (Vniins). According to Guriev, many specialised version of GNU/Linux distributions are produced, often in response to requests by local governments. In three Russian regions, most of the PCs in use in about a thousand schools have been switched over to GNU/Linux. Moreover, Russian science institutes are publishing their work on open source systems, he said, for example on the web site Linux Testing.
Other presentations were given by representatives of the Latvian Open Source Association, an advocacy group, and its Lithuanian counterpart, Open Source for Lithuania, Atviras kodas Lietuvai.
According to LATA chairman Jānis Treijs the organisation is considering to hold similar meetings in the next few years: "This conference went very well, we hope we can repeat it annually."