European Commission endorses open source

European government agencies should pool resources by sharing common open-source software, according to a study published Monday by the European Commission.

Open-source software “could be usefully used as a source of inspiration for Member States to develop good and interactive public services in the future to the benefit of Europe’s citizens,” said commissioner for enterprise and the information society, Erkki Liikanen.

According to another recent report published by the European Information Technology Observatory, E.U. public sector expenditures on so-called e-government initiatives are expected to rise by 28 per cent to 6.6 billion euros (US$6.53 billion) this year. Sharing open-source software could help cut “soaring e-government information technology costs,” the Commission said. E-government is a term used to describe initiatives for public agencies to take advantage of the Internet and IT to improve the way they operate.

Although software would probably need to be customized to local linguistic and legal requirements, sharing these tools could lead to across-the-board improvements in efficiency of the European public sector, the Commission said.

The study suggests that software developed for and owned by government agencies should be issued under an open-source licence. It also recommends that a software-pooling process be established for the entire E.U. because it would provide quality guarantees and help resolve questions of liability that currently often inhibit the sharing of developments.

“Sharing competence and good practices is more urgent than sharing software,” the Commission said. “More than simply providing software, the pooling facility should thus make available expertise and help create a community of developers, users and policy makers, providing opportunities for increased cooperation, notably in software development and testing.”