A blog for the enterprise open source community
Open source and the European CommissionMatthew Aslett, November 26, 2008 @ 8:27 am ET
As noted the other day, this week I am attending ICT 2008 in Lyon, a European Commission Information Society’s research event for information and communication technologies.
That means I don’t have too much time for blogging and other tasks. I thought it would be useful to provide some information on the European Commission’s position on open source, however, having been reminded of a research report I wrote for The 451 Group earlier this year.
Clients can read the full report, which goes into more detail on the strategy, key research projects and future work programs, here. Think of this post as the “community edition”.
Although the EC retains a position of overall neutrality, when it comes to software licensing, open source software development and collaboration between member states is seen as a means by which the competitiveness of the European Union’s ICT industry can be improved, in line with the Lisbon goals and the i2010 strategic ICT framework to make Europe more commercially dynamic and competitive.
This belief is in part due to the FLOSSImpact report (PDF) published by the United Nations University (UNU-MERIT) in 2006, which stated that open source software can encourage the creation of SMEs and jobs by encouraging skills development and local industry.
Further projects have explored methods by which the theory could be put into practice. The encouragement of open source adoption is therefore based on the view that using open source development methods will enable member countries can improve development and collaboration processes, avoid duplication of effort and focus innovation further up the value chain.
Leaning towards open source
The overall position, while officially neutral, is beginning to lean toward open source. For example, in a November 2007 speech, commissioner for information society and the media Viviane Reding called for the creation of a European Strategy for Software. She pointed out that while 70% of the open source software developers in the world are European, 90% of the revenue generated by open source software was going to US-based companies.
While Reding did not actually go so far as to demand a strategy for software based on open source, she did not really need to. Similarly, competition commissioner Neelie Kroes told a meeting in June that no citizen or company should be forced or encouraged to use a particular company’s technology to access government information.
The EC’s first policy for internal open source software usage was published by the Directorate-General for Informatics (DIGIT) in 2000 and recognized the use of Apache while recommending the investigation of Linux for EC systems. In 2003, an update formally encouraged open source adoption where ‘a clear benefit can be expected.’ Suggested potential benefits included improved development processes, faster or cheaper delivery of IT systems, improvement of in-house skills and a broader choice of offerings.
More recently in February 2007, the EC approved an update to the policy that went a step further, stating that “for all new development, where deployment and usage is foreseen by parties outside of the EC infrastructure, Open Source Software will be the preferred development and deployment platform.”
In other words, mirroring commissioner Kroes’ speech, the EC is eager to ensure people or companies are not required to use software from a single supplier to communicate with it. Besides websites and web forms, this policy extends to document formats.
The strategy for open source software within the EC includes the EC’s intention to create a professional environment for supporting the use of open source software as its internal experience and expertise improves.
Coordination of internal and external strategies
Intriguingly, the strategy extension will also enable the coordination of internal and external open source strategies following DIGIT‘s adoption of responsibility for IDABC (the Interoperable Delivery of European eGovernment Services to public Administrations, Business and Citizens program), which runs a number of projects that promote the adoption of open source software by public administrations.
That could enable a more joined-up approach to open source in the long-term, although in the short-term the official position is likely to remain neutral.
Comments (3) Categories: Software