Sardinia chooses open-source software

ROME – The regional government of Sardinia, an Italian island usually thought of as socially and economically backward, has approved a bill designed to promote the use of open-source software throughout the region, a regional government official said Monday.

The bill was given a green light by the center-left regional government just over a week ago, and the administration hopes it will be passed into law by the regional council (parliament) by next January, Massimo Dadea, a councillor responsible for general affairs, said in a telephone interview.

“The bill has had a fairly difficult ride so far. It has run into cultural difficulties and there may have been some lobbying activity against it, so its passage though the council may encounter difficulties too,” Dadea said.

Sardinia had drawn on the previous experience of regions such as Emilia Romagna and Tuscany, which have also passed laws encouraging the adoption of open-source software, but Dadea said he believed the Sardinian bill went even further. “The novelty is that we put together the promotion of open-source software with measures intended to promote a knowledge-based society. That means investing in research and development, new technology, and human resources as well.”

Article nine of the proposed new law says the region “promotes and uses solutions based on free software in order to contain and rationalize public spending, to favor the possibility of reuse and the interoperability of components produced by various suppliers making use of open protocols and formats.”

It says the regional civil service must cite specific reasons justifying the choice of proprietary software over an open-source alternative. And the bill says companies bidding for public contracts can be given extra points in the tender process if their proposal makes use of open-source software.

The new law will reduce costs, boost local software enterprises, and encourage experimentation and innovation, Dadea said. Another of its articles calls for the creation of a partnership between the Sardinian Research Agency and local businesses, academic institutions and the regional civil service in order to promote the development of an information society by harnessing locally available information technology skills.

“This bill is not aimed against anybody and it will not introduce rigidities into the system,” Dadea insisted. He said the text made Sardinia a legislative pioneer and had provided inspiration for proposals now being put forward at the national level by the opposition Democratic Party.

The president of the Sardinian regional government, Tiscali founder Renato Soru, had taken a close interest in the proposals, Dadea said. “He provided an important input, as it’s well-known that President Soru is very interested in the development of the information society and the reduction of the digital divide,” he said. Dadea denied any idea that Soru could face a conflict of interests between his political and business roles. “Soru is not a software producer,” he said.

When Soru was elected four years ago, just 25 percent of Sardinia’s town councils and 60 percent of the population had access to the Internet, Dadea said. With support from the regional government, broadband access has now been made available to 66 percent of town councils and 85 percent of the population.

“By next spring our Internet project should be completed, and all regional institutions will have broadband access,” Dadea said. “Sardinia will be Italy’s first 100 percent digital region.”

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