‚Open source‘ is not a dirty word any more. It used to be a dirty word, a scary one. For example, in e-government applications and public administrations open source was something to be used at home, as a hobby. Nobody would dare to push for an open source solution in a public organisation. „Who will offer us technical support, and what if we are sued for infringing someone’s IP if we use this?“
Those were the sort of issues that discouraged officials from selecting software on merit. We do not yet have a true level playing field, but thankfully attitudes are changing. One example is the European Commission’s OSOR project. This project raises awareness and stimulates reuse of successful open source solutions, across European public administrations. And another example is EUPL, the EU open source license, which, under an EU legal framework, allows for easy licensing of open source software.
Today many large organisations across Europe, such as the Munich City Council, use solutions like Linux. And the UK government has been pushing open source solutions since 2009, with many government departments now using it as a component. And from what I hear, such bodies are pleased with the results. The reason is not only good value for money, which is critical in today’s financial situation, but also more choice. There is lower dependency on certain vendors, and lower switching costs. Things are changing, also in the private sector.
Now large companies declare, proudly, that they are not only using open source software, but contributing to it. And that means that many important open source projects are in fact backed by businesses who are investing in it. They make good returns. And that is going to continue as a major boost for the open source movement. According to data from open source providers, like RedHat, the top three countries for open source activity in the EU are France, Spain and Germany. And with such big countries in the lead, the momentum for open source is set to keep on growing.
Indeed, open source is appearing everywhere: in consumer products, in databases, in business software, in games and as a component of services delivered across the internet. And large initiatives like NOiV, the ‚Nederland Open in Verbinding‘ (the Netherlands Openly in Connection“), from my own country, the Netherlands, are helping to make it mainstream also in public administration. The European Commission has done a lot to encourage this trend. One example is the European Interoperability Framework, which aims at interoperability in and between public administrations.
And now the digital agenda for Europe, is raising the stakes. Here we are aiming at a more strategic approach to interoperability and standards, and emphasising the important link to public procurement. That can really change the way open source is seen in public administrations and offer a lot of potential to small and medium sized providers. You have an important role in shaping Europe’s digital future. Governments cannot simply announce and deliver the digital future. It must come out of an organic and shared responsibility. And I want to build a broad movement for digital action. At the EU we can bring people together, help get rid of obstacles, and occasionally give funding to help in research and development. But the real difference is made by people and communities, like the open source movement.