Two new legal initiatives to promote the use of open source have been announced in the last months, both of them aligned with the current European Union strategies like the Open Source Strategy and the ISA-Developing and sharing IT solutions for less bureaucracy.
One is the national initiative approved by the Bulgarian parliament for the mandatory use of open source for IT services contracts, and in particular for software to be used in its public administration. This legislation is a clear step towards higher technological independence via the development of local business and the reutilization of code by different government bodies, a decision that provides reassurance to their citizens that the electronic public administration functions adequately. Additional advantages of this measure include better security, a reduction of costs related to the acquisition and renewal of private licences – which are in most cases a dreadful monopoly – plus an increase of hardware longevity.
The other initiative is particularly beneficial to the gvSIG project, as it has been originated in the Valencian Community, the same region where the project was born and where its headquarters are. This initiative, the Mocion 12/IX which was seconded by all parties in the plenary session on 26th May 2016, seeks to promote the use of open software in the public administration of this region.
The reading of this new measure is highly recommendable as it is short and precise regarding further steps, which include the following: to define political actions and plans to promote the use of open source software in the autonomous administration; to incorporate clear guidance for the preferential use of open source in the digital transformation plan (Plan de Transformacion Digital) and all forthcoming information system projects; to promote the implementation of open licenses for current and future contracts for the externalization of its information system and the support to business that follow the open source models, a decision that would open new business opportunities for the ICT Valencian SMEs; to prioritize the development of open source projects funded by the European Union funding schemes for open source initiatives.
Of special interest is the point noting the publication of biannual progress reports based on KPIs that would allow assessment according to independent criteria. Following on from this, the Consell has confirmed that it will report on the fulfillment of this measure after the six months of its approval. This announcement breaks new boundaries with regards to other legal initiates that lacked such clear monitoring commitment, an issue that was sadly present in previous open source initiatives.
When I previously discussed the concept of smart cities, which could now be extrapolated to include ‘smart government’, I explained the difference between political and technical decisions, and sated that opting for open software was a political decision similar to the choice between private or public road management. Up to now, once the legal framework was approved, the major difficulty stopping its practical implementation was usually the technicians in charge of its implementation. This resistance to change, which looks more like a preference for ease and inactivity instead of coping with the extra efforts required for implementing any changes, could be compared to the issues found during the abolition of slavery, which probably found arguments to the likes of making sure that the job was done as a way to oppose to it. This may sound like an exaggeration, but I myself have heard this type of argument for years, comments that exude apathy, lack of initiative and opposition to a change that is so clearly beneficial to all.
Therefore huge congratulations to the Bulgarian and Valencian citizens and well done to their politicians who have understood that technology is one of the major strategical sectors of the XXI century and who, consequently, have created laws to be able to control it, a decision only possible via open source software. Furthermore, I would also like to advise citizens, and particularly those working in open source associations and communities, and those SMEs who would benefit from this political measure, to monitor its implementation and evolution. This way we will avoid hearing excuses and the type of reluctance previously mentioned, and will be able to see the materialization of this policy in our daily lives.