If software is created with public money, the code should be open.

Original author: Glyn Moody
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If we pay for it, we should be able to use it.

Perhaps because of the “revolutionary” image, free software is not as popular in government institutions as it is in other areas. But this is an important area: there is a special dynamic in this game, and there are many good reasons for demanding free software. Sadly, the most famous project of transition of the state IT system from a proprietary to a free code in Munich was so difficult. Although last year a decision was made to return to Windows , this is more like a failure of IT management than problems with the code itself. Moreover, the Munich project began in the distant 2003 and was a pioneer. Today there are already dozens of large-scale implementations of free software .

Tells TechRepublic:

The most notable project, perhaps, is the French gendarmerie, which transferred 70,000 computers to Gendbuntu, a special version of Ubuntu. Another 15 French ministries switched to LibreOffice, as did the Netherlands Ministry of Defense, and the Italian Ministry of Defense is going to transfer more than 100,000 computers from Microsoft Office to LibreOffice by 2020. About 25,000 computers in Copenhagen hospitals will also switch from Microsoft Office to LibreOffice.

New projects appear constantly. The municipality of Tirana, the largest in Albania, has just announced the installation of LibreOffice on thousands of desktops , and almost 80% of Barcelona’s IT budget this year will go towards the introduction of open source software.

One of the main factors - the ability to reduce costs, abandoning the constant fee for upgrades proprietary software. But it is important not to exaggerate this factor. All major software projects incur implementation and support costs. Departments that choose free software just for the sake of economy are likely to be disappointed, and this will have a negative impact on the reputation of Open Source and future projects.

Perhaps no less important is the use of open standards. They ensure that the system does not get stuck in a proprietary format, and greatly simplify long-term access to and storage of files. Any government is responsible to society not only for saving the budget, but also for the availability of information, so open standards should be a key factor.

Open Source proponents rightly point out that free software is the natural choice for any solutions based on open standards, compatibility, and reusable components. For example, these are key elements of the new digital strategy of the European Commission. One of the leaders in this area is the UK government. In 2014, it announced a new policy."To do everything open, to do everything better . " The strategy comes to life with the transition to the Open Document Format for Office Applications (OpenDocument) Version 1.2 as the default format for publishing and collaborating with government documents in the UK. The project conducted an interesting review of the implementation of ODF over the past four years , which ends with the following words:

We cannot publish important documents in formats that do not meet open standards. Government documents are for everyone. You use Windows, Mac, GNU / Linux, Chrome OS, iOS, Android or any other system - you have the right to read them. Therefore, we will continue to work to make the documents open and accessible.

Using open standards is not the only big advantage of switching to open source. Another advantage is transparency. It was recently revealed that Microsoft collected 300,000 Dutch government employees personal data through Office ProPlus without permission and documentation:

Microsoft systematically collects data on the use of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook on a large scale. Secretly, without informing people. Microsoft does not provide a choice by the amount of data, the ability to disable collection or to view the collected information, because the data stream is encrypted. Similarly, Microsoft has implemented separate software for Office in Windows 10 that regularly sends telemetry data to its own servers in the United States.

Switching to Open Source does not guarantee leakage protection, but IT departments will eliminate such problems as soon as they are discovered, which is sometimes impossible for proprietary products. This is a powerful reason why budget funds should be spent only on open source software. Or, as the website of the Free Software Foundation in Europe states: “If software is created with public money, the code must be opened” .

The site points to some compelling reasons why any code produced with government money should be open. For example, state-funded software can be used by various departments and even other countries to solve similar problems. This opens the way for feedback and collaboration, meaning better code quality and faster innovation. Open source is automatically available to people who paid for it - members of the public. They can make suggestions for improvement, find bugs or create new interesting applications. All this is impossible if the state code is stored under the lock of the companies that write it on behalf of taxpayers.

Once again, free software is a natural choice for social systems. Indeed, if you think about it, it seems ridiculous that government money will be used to produce something other than open source. The Basque Country understood this and in 2012 adopted a law on the mandatory publication of the source code of any software developed for the government . More recently, the Canadian government also established such a link. The new information technology management directive states:

If possible, use open standards and open source software.
If the appropriate option is to create an application for the order, by default all source codes should be published in open format on government sites and services designated by the treasury secretariat.

All source code must be released under an appropriate free license.

The fact that this approach has not yet become the norm is something of a failure on the part of the free software community. Perhaps the time has come for governments to drop snobbery about Open Source and put more effort into achieving a huge victory for the free software world.

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