Europe pledges support for open source government solutions

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In what must rank as one of its most significant endorsements, open source software (OSS) has been explicitly recognised as a key driver towards achieving ambitious governmental digitisation goals by ministers from 32 countries in the European Union and the European Free Trade Area.

The disciplines of change management and project management should be totally integrated.

MJ Fick

The ministers got together in Estonia earlier this month to consider and sign the Tallinn Declaration on e-Government which James Lovegrove, Red Hat's EMEA Public Policy Director, categorises as: "creating a renewed political dynamism coupled with legal tools to accelerate the implementation of a range of existing EU policy instruments" such as the e-Government Action Plan 2016 - 2020.

However, the declaration signatories also regard it as the start of laying the foundation for further digital evolution and joint actions beyond 2020, while ensuring the sustainability of current achievements and initiatives.

Lovegrove points out that perhaps the most significant development for open source was the explicit endorsement of the role OSS must play in governmental digitisation.

The declaration states that the signatory countries will "make more use of open source solutions and/or open standards when (re)building ICT systems and solutions (among else, to avoid vendor lock-ins), including those developed and/or promoted by EU programmes for interoperability and standardisation".

It also calls on the European Commissionto consider "strengthening the requirements for use of open source solutions and standards when (the) (re)building of ICT systems and solutions takes place with EU funding, including by an appropriate open licence policy - by 2020".

The declaration itself is seen as marking a new political commitment at EU level on significant priorities towards ensuring high quality, user-centric digital public services for citizens and seamless cross-border public services for businesses. These digital public services should be open, efficient and inclusive, as well as allow for end-to-end borderless, interoperable, personalised and user-friendly utilisation by all citizens and businesses.

The introduction to the declaration notes that the development of eGovernment has a central role to play in meeting the "serious social, environmental, economic and political challenge" facing the member countries of the EU. The signatories believe that digital transformation can strengthen the trust in governments that is necessary for policies to have effect: by increasing the transparency, responsiveness, reliability, and integrity of public governance.

The Tallinn Declaration is therefore seen as providing an important impetus for member states and the European Commission, both collectively and individually, to continue to invest in accelerating the modernisation of the public sector.

By signing the declaration, the member states reaffirmed their commitment to progress in linking up their public eServices in order to provide efficient and secure digital public services.

It is hoped that the modernisation of public administrations across Europe and the delivery of cross border eServices, eProcurement and electronic identification will make citizens' and businesses' lives easier.

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