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PT: Parliamentarians propose to make open standards mandatory

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Two left-wing political parties in the Portuguese parliament want to make the use of open standards mandatory for public administrations. Next week Friday, the parliament will discuss two motions, filed by the Left Bloc, with sixteen of the 230 seats in the parliament, and the Portuguese Communist Party, which has thirteen seats.

Citizens increasingly interact with the public administration over the Internet, explains the Left Bloc in its resolution. That is why governments most use open formats instead of proprietary alternatives, "otherwise, only those who can pay for the use of the proprietary format can have access to the information". If adopted by the parliament, the Left Bloc motion will create an obligation for the use of open standards in public administrative IT systems.

The PCP's proposal is a rewording of a motion it had filed in 2008. The PCP wants to make it mandatory to use open standards in all governmental digital documents. The party wants public administrations to use open formats for all electronic files, including audiovisual material, geographic information, email and websites.

"This is the most important IT debate ever in our parliament", commented one of people involved in ESOP, the country's association for open source IT service providers.

ESOP's president, Gustavo Homem, said the advocacy group does not know much support the other four parties will give to the resolutions. However, in a statement ESOP yesterday said it is of utmost importance that the country adopts open standards, like in many other European countries.

According to ESOP, using open standards helps to avoid vendor lock-in. The groups says the public administration's dependency on proprietary protocols and format are costing the country tens of millions of Euro per year. "Open standards give citizens freedom of choice in their digital relationship with the state."

In October, Ansol, a free and open source advocacy group, protested that five public administrations in 2009 had spent more than 120 million Euro in total on proprietary software licences for operating systems and office applications, without properly following procurement rules.


More information:

Proposal by the Left Bloc (pdf, in Portuguese)

Proposal by the PCP (in Portuguese)

ESOP statement

Statement by ESOP on vendor lock-in (in Portuguese)

Earlier OSOR news item

Free and open source software in Portugal's public administration (in Portuguese)