Many countries in Europe have laws and recommendations referring to Free Software and Open Standards. The picture is certainly complex, and can be confusing at times. Many countries already use and/or build their public digital solutions based on Free Software.
On this wiki page, we attempt to provide an overview of the laws and policies that exist throughout Europe, together with some practical examples of existing digital solutions developed for public administrations as Free Software. If you are working for Free Software in your country, it is useful for you to know what your government says about the topic. Comparisons between different countries can also be instructive.
This page is still a draft. Please help us improve it and complete the picture ! Do you know about a policy we're missing ? Have we overlooked an aspect of a policy in your country ?
If yes, please include a link to the relevant government publication whenever possible, ideally along with a (rough) translation of the relevant passages.
This is a work in progress. Please help us make this overview the best it can be!
- European Union
- European Union's Member States
- Non-EU European Economic Area Member States
In 2004 the European Interoperability Framework v.1 was published, where, for the first time on the pan-European level, Free Software and proprietary software were treated equally. The EC encouraged the use of Open Standards in e-government services to effectively implement software interoperability both on national and international levels.
The term “Open Standards” is not in use in the European Interoperability Strategy and the EIF v.2, published in 2010. Instead, the EC introduced the term “open specifications” and proposed that“when establishing European public services, public administrations should prefer open specifications, taking due account of the coverage of functional needs, maturity and market support”.
Among other important EU documents on Free Software and Open Standards, EU Digital Agenda explicitly states that public procurement of software and ICT should promote efficiency and reduce lock-in.
In the end of 2015, the European Commission started security audits of Free Software it is using under the 'EU-Free and Open Source Software Auditing' (EU-Fossa) project that was initiated by the European Parliament. The project should result in a systematic approach for the EU institutions to ensure that widely-used key Free Software components can be trusted. The project will also enable the EU institutions to contribute to the integrity and security of key Free Software. This includes to involve the Commission in fixing bugs in Free Software components, and that the European Commission regularly inspects widely-used Free Software.
The European Parliament's own-initiative report on "Towards the Digital Single Market Act" adopted in January 2016 which reflects the Parliament's non-binding position on the legislative and political changes proposed by the European Commission in the light of latter's "Digital Single Market Strategy" calls upon the Commission to increase the use of Free Software in public administrations and educational establishments. The report also highlights the security advantages of Free Software.
European Union's Member States
National policy on public procurement of Free Software could not be found. Though in 2010 Austria announced its plan to create interoperable e-government systems based on Open Standards and Free Software.
In January 2017, the Austrian government published its Digital Roadmap, the result of a multi-stakeholder public consultation which lasted over two years. The roadmap describes the current digitalisation status of the public sector and sets goals for the years to come, including the promotion of Free Software in public administrations.
Since 2004, federally commissioned software must be delivered with the source code. Federal authorities are recommended to acquire Free Software, but final decisions should be based on total costs.
Starting 2008, Belgian federal government services are obliged to use the Open Document Format when exchanging documents.
In 2008 the Bulgarian government announced that it will consider Free Software while reviewing its national IT strategy.
Since 2015, Free Software is the preferred development form for eGovernment projects and listed as a requirement in the 'Preliminary criteria for the eligibility of eGovernment projects'. The policy is said to be backed up with the relevant legislation in future. A few governmental projects are already published as Free Software.
In May 2016, the Bulgarian parliament is expected to approve the plans to start a repository for software developed by or for the government. The proposed bill amends eGovernment act adopted in 2007 by establishing the new agency, eGovernment agency with the responsibility to manage the source code repository. The source code repository is intended to host software solutions developed by or for public administrations. According to the amendment, whenever public administrations are writing new software, and whenever they are upgrading existing software or systems, code must meet Free Software criteria.
Since July 2016 the Electronic Governance Act requires all software written for the government to be Free Software and to be developed as such in a public repository:
Art. 58a. Upon preparation of technical and functional assignments for public procurement to develop, upgrade or implementation of information systems and e-services, administrative authorities must include the following requirements: 1. when the subject of the contract includes the development of computer programs: a) computer programs must meet the criteria for open source software; b) all copyright and related rights on the relevant computer programs, their source code, the design of interfaces and databases which are subject to the order should arise for the principal in full, without limitations in the use, modification and distribution; c) development should be done in the repository maintained by the Agency in accordance with Art. 7c pt. 18;
a) computer programs must meet the criteria for open source software;
b) all copyright and related rights on the relevant computer programs, their source code, the design of interfaces and databases which are subject to the order should arise for the principal in full, without limitations in the use, modification and distribution;
c) development should be done in the repository maintained by the Agency in accordance with Art. 7c pt. 18;
Despite the promising framework that the Art. 58a creates, April made some suggestions for improvement. In brief, April notes that a reference to free software and its definition would have been more ambitious, an explicit reference to the criteria of the "Open Source Initiative" might have been more appropriate and a broader provision, built around a priority to internal development and to sharing and reuse amongst public administrations, would have been possibly more useful.
In 2006, the Croatian government adopted the "Open Source Software Policy" and issued guidelines for developing and using open source software in the government institutions. The policy encourages to prioritise Free Software in public institutions, to support open standards for protocols and file formats, to support the use of Free Software and open standards outside of its institutions, and to the use of Free Software solutions in educational institutions. However, the Croatian government was not so eager to implement the strategy in practice since its adoption, and by 2010 there was no significant presence of Free Software in Croatian public sector.
In May 2015, Croatian political party Sustainable Development of Croatia (ORaH) published a new policy that encourages the government to pursue Free Software solutions, addresses the dangers of vendor lock-in, and insists on open document standards.
By 2015, the Ministry of Environment and Nature Protection has become one of the country’s major users of Free Software solutions. The software is making possible two geospatial service platforms on biodiversity and environmental protection built for the State Institute for Nature Protection. The biodiversity portal is publicly accessible and can be reused in other systems. The other portal is meant for internal use by the Croatian government. The GIS system provides access to all institutions, helping them to maintain and update their data and making it easy to share and exchange information.
There appear to be no Free Software policies.
Free Software policies could not be found.
The Czech Republic's Environmental Information Agency, is relying on a broad variety of Free Software solutions, including the relational database management system Postgres and its spatial databases extension PostGIS for management of its spatial data. It combines this with Mapserver and Geoserver, for building geospatial web applications. These services are built on open standards.
Free Software procurement policy could not be found.
In 2003 the Danish government adopted a Software Strategy emphasizing value for money, competition, freedom of choice, and interoperability. The policy expresses no preference for Free Software.
In 2007-2008 Danish government ran a pilot program , where government institutions were required to carry Open Document Format and Microsoft’s Office Open XML format on all computers. They were obliged to accept ODF created by the public, businesses, and other governmental units. Since 2011, ODF must be used by all state authorities.
In 2014, Aarhus decided on long-term IT strategy that requires the use of open IT standards for all of its future IT projects.
Estonia is creating e-government services mainly by using Free Software: including the systems for health care, police, business portals, document exchange and document management, the software for e-Justice, Estonian Electronic Identity Software, a citizen portal and software for e-Procurement and e-Invoicing. The country also by default makes all of its software solutions available using the European Public Licence (EUPL).
Finnish government has recommended government agencies to consider Free Software since 2003.
In 2009 JUHTA, the public administration of information, has released the recommendation on the use of Free Software in public administrations. This policy document is intended to guide public institutions in the procurement of Free Software. Nevertheless, until now Open Standards and Free Software are not yet among the top priorities of the Finnish national IT policy.
In 2015, the city administration of Helsinki adopted IT strategy that emphasises a preference for Free Software, especially when developing or commissioning the development of software solutions.
The French government was among the first in Europe to consider setting up a national Free Software policy. The first proposals are dated 1999. Since then, several ministries, including Ministries of Defence, Culture, Economy, moved to Free Software operating systems.
In 2007 a guide of using Free Software in public administrations was published. Open Standards are used in e-government systems at the national, regional and local level.
Also, France has a public procurement law which includes the definition of Open Standards but does not provide them with mandatory or preferable status.
On September 19 2012, the newly appointed French government published a circular on Free Software in public administration. The document aims at giving guidelines and recommendations to public bodies related to their use of Free Software, it . It highlights the advantages of Free Software in term of competition, technological sovereignty and cost control. It also stresses the importance of sharing knowledge and skills in the digital society. The document promotes public contribution to Free Software project and regular contact with Free Software communities. The policy created several working groups -on desktop applications, data bases, server OS and virtualisation systems- and a "kernel team" to favour interoperability, promote good practices and manage public contribution to Free Software projects.
On June 25 2013, a law concerning the “Policy and planning for the rebuilding of the school of the Republic ” was voted by the French Parliament. Its article 10 concerning e-learning states that procurement for e-learning services has to “consider Free Software and open format offers, if any”.
On July 9 2013 the prioritisation of Free Software was voted by the French parliament for the first time. It concerns learning resources used by French Higher Education public service. Article L. 123-4-1 states that
"The Public Service for Higher Education provides digital services and educational resources to its users." "Free software is used on a priority basis."
In the early 2016, the French National Assembly approved a first draft law for a Digital Republic, which encourages (rather than prioritising) the use of Free Software by the country's public administrations. The draft Digital Law does consider source code of software developed by or for public administrations to be public information, which should be made available on request.
In 2016, Paris’ administrative court (“tribunal administratif de Paris”) concluded that the software source code written by and for public authorities can be considered as an administrative document and can be freely accessed. As a result of the case, France has officially opened the source code of the fiscal calculator used by the French fiscal administration to calculate the income taxes of individuals in France.
Later in the same year, the aforementioned "Digital Republic" Law came into force. Under the law, source code considered as administrative document and released electronically must be made available in an open standard format that can be easily reused and processed. Nevertheless, April expresses its concerns: first, it considers the newly-added restriction for the access to the administrative documents, based on threats for the security of the government disproportionate; second, the law does not establish the use of Free Software in public administrations, but only "encourages" certain government departments to consider Free Software and Open Standards when developing, purchasing and using software.
The German government actively recommends and promotes usage and procurement of Free Software by public administrations. As an example, in 2007 the Foreign office moved to the ODF.
Under Germany's Standards and Architectures for eGovernment Applications 4.0 (SAGA 4.0, 2008), ODF recommended for editable text documents. Since 2007, all communications with the federal courts may be transmitted in the ODF format.
In 2011 the Greek parliament adopted an e-governance law (Law 3979/2011) that obligates public administrations to only develop software of which the code is open and can be modified and distributed freely. However, since the adoption of that law, the use of Free Software in public sector is significantly low.
In 2015, the Ministry of Economy, Infrastructure, Marine and Tourism signed a four-year cooperation agreement with the Greek free and open source software society (Gfoss) to "support the creation, promotion and reuse of open data, content and software in the digital economy". Gfoss, representing 29 universities and research centres in Greece, will help the Economy Ministry to design, develop and implement policies on openness. The advocacy group will also be involved in studies, pilots and implementation projects.
In May 2016, the Hungarian government published a decree that promotes the use of Free Software and Open Standards in public sector. The decree requires the creation of provisions to propagate software built on Open Standards and Free software in the public sector. The country's Ministry of Interior is assigned to be responsible to bring in the necessary change:
* to start a central licence registry for software used by the public sector;
* to create a committee to help promote the use of open standards and Free Software, involving the country’s ICT council, the Academy of Sciences, and others;
* to report yearly on progress made on the use of Free Software and Open Standards.
To follow-up, in November 2016 the Hungarian government published a Decision, setting its goal to reduce the use of proprietary software in eGovernment by 60% till 2020. For that purpose, it engaged NHIT, the National Council for Telecommunications and Information Technology, and NISZ, the state-owned National Information and Communication Services provider, while the whole progress is monitored by the Prime Minister's Office. According to the above Decision, ICT procurement solutions must be platform-independent. In addition, NHIT and NISZ should create standard free PC desktop software configuration for all the government departments and a standard government document template repository.
Free Software policies or major initiatives could not be found.
Ireland National Library is using Free Software in all parts of its digital library infrastructure. Linux systems are used for web services, for middleware systems and for managing digital assets.
The Italian government encourages the use of Free Software by the public administrations and calls for its extensive use where possible.
The 2004 Italian Directive for public procurement of software stated that in the acquisition of software, the public administration must consider Free Software and judge software according to transferability, interoperability, dependency on supplier, and the availability of the source code for inspection.
In 2007 Italy launched its own repository of Free software for public administrations (Ambiente di Sviluppo Cooperativo).
Free Software policies or major initiatives could not be found.
Free Software policies could not be found.
Gecamed, a Free Software Electronic Health Record system developed in Luxembourg since 2007, was by 2015 used by more than 10 per cent of all general practitioners in the country.
Since mid-2015, an “Open data” portal (data.public.lu) has been online and publishes data in open formats. The reuse of this data is allowed.
In 2010 Malta Information Technology Agency has launched a series of policies with the aim to inform and guide government organizations in the procurement process of ICT solutions. Among them, the Open Source Software Policy, Open Source Software Directive, Open Standards policy, Open Standards Directive were published. It states there that government should actively consider acquisition of Free Software taking into account all direct and indirect costs when calculating the cost-effectiveness of Free Software. All prospective ICT investments, procured and / or developed internally within the public sector, shall adopt Open Standards. Open Standards-based solutions and applications should be preferred.
The Malta Information Technology Agency (MITA) implemented the Malta Spatial Data Infrastructure (MSDI) portal aiming at sharing environmental-related geospatial datasets, by using mostly Free Software.
Netherlands appear to have one of the most Free Software-oriented e-government and procurement policies in EU.
From December 2007 the Dutch parliament has been using exclusively Open Standards. The OSOSS ("open source as a part of the software strategy") Program was created to help stimulate the use of Open Standards by public administrations and provide information on Free Software.
In the Action plan published in 2007 the Dutch Cabinet intends to encourage the use of Free Software and Open Standards within the public and semi-public sectors. The key focus here is: “use Open Standards, or come up with a very good reason why this is not possible”. All institutions that still insist on the use of proprietary software must provide reasons for maintaining it until a later date.
In October 2016, the lower house of Dutch Parliament adopted a law proposal making mandatory the use of Open Standards for public administrations. The legislative proposal also instructs the government to actively promote the use of Free Software.
Positive examples of publicly funded software to be released as Free Software in Netherlands, are following:
* A web application for searching and showing geographically labelled information Geozet.
* Open government data portal that is enhanced integration of CKAN and Drupal.
* A OpenDocument Format testing website is in the process of development, whilst all the developed code of the project is being published under AGPL v. 3.
The Polish government recommends the use of Open Standards to public agencies. According to the results of the survey carried out in 2010 90 percent of the Polish public administrations are using Free Software, though most of it is installed on servers.
In 2016, Poland’s eGovernment strategy recommends that publicly financed software should use an open architecture, and consider publication under a Free Software licence.
In 2014, the Romanian government adopted its 2014-2020 Digital Agenda. Free Software and open standards are one of the so-called Strategic Lines of Development - “action points that need to be followed and executed in meet the desired outcomes for the Digital Agenda for Romania", outlined in the the National Strategy on Digital Agenda for Romania. This strategy promotes the use of Free Software and open standards, and promises to provide open access to the applications purchased and implemented by public administrations.
Free Software policies or major initiatives could not be found.
Since 2003 Free Software and proprietary software are given equal consideration in public procurement.
The Spanish authorities promote the Free Software and encourage its usage by public agencies. In 2010 the Spanish government adopted the National Interoperability Framework where it is forbidden for the public administrations to use exclusively non-open standards without offering an Open-Standard alternative, unless such alternatives do not exist.
The Spanish Royal Decree 4/2010 provides that the Spanish administration will speed-up technology reuse by making applications available under Free Software conditions. In such case the relevant software will be distributed under the EUPL (European Union Public Licence). One of the examples of such publicly available software is a web-based solution for archiving electronic files Archive that has been published by the Ministry of Finance and Public Administrations under EUPL.
Contracting authorities in Sweden may require ICT standards as mandatory if these meet the requirement of an "Open Standard" as defined in the European Union’s Interoperability Framework (EIF v 1.0). Other technical specifications can only be used as ‘evaluation criteria’. Currently the list of "Open IT-Standards" includes 46 standards that meet the criteria listed in EIF v. 1.0. To make it to the list, IT standards must be developed openly and publicly. The standard must not constrain reuse of the standard, and intellectual property (patents) should be made freely available.
According to the study for the country’s Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation conducted in 2016, in general, Free Software is common in data centre environments, where it is used for web and application servers. Free Software is also more prevalent in central government organisations than in local administrations.
Examples include the National Heritage Board which switched its entire database environment to Postgresql and the Social Insurance Agency replaced a mix of proprietary server operating systems with Linux-based servers in 2014 and 2015. There are a handful of projects where local and regional public administrations are working together on Free Software solutions. One example is SKLTP, a healthcare services platform. The report also points to Kivos, involving some 15 municipalities working on Free Software-based ICT solutions, and Open ePlatform, where 5 municipalities are developing an eGovernment services platform.
In 2010 the UK government reviewed its Free Software strategy but remained pro-active user of Free Software. It states that the UK government will actively and fairly consider Free Software solutions alongside proprietary ones in making procurement decisions. Procurement decisions will be made on the basis on the best value for money solution to the business requirement, taking account of total lifetime cost of ownership of the solution, including exit and transition costs, after ensuring that solutions fulfill minimum and essential capability, security, scalability, transferability, support and manageability requirements. However, Free Software is given a preference, where there is no significant overall cost difference between free and non-free software products.
The UK Government will require suppliers to provide evidence of consideration of Free Software solutions during procurement exercises – if this evidence is not provided, bidders are likely to be disqualified from the procurement. The UK Government will expect software developers to consider where necessary a suitable mix of Free Software and proprietary products to ensure that the best possible overall solution can be found.
The Government adopts Open Standards and uses these to communicate with the citizens and businesses that have adopted Free Software solutions.
In a procurement policy note 2011 the UK Cabinet recommends government departments wherever possible to deploy Open Standards in their procurement specifications.
In Government ICT Strategy, published on 30.03.2011, the UK Government impose compulsory Open Standards for the Government ICT infrastructure for interoperability and security reasons. It expressly states that government agencies should procure Free Software solutions, where appropriate - to help with this, a special toolkit for procurers on the use of Free Software will be published within next 6 months. Also, the UK Cabinet will promote more active participation of small and medium-size enterprises as well as voluntary and social sector, social enterprise organizations in bidding for government ICT contracts.
In 2016, Tech North - a tech hub of the Northern England (Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool, Newcastle, Sunderland and the Tees Valley) published a report with recommendations to accelerate the digital growth and to reach the tech potential in the region. The Report suggests to encourage the use of Free Software in order "to enable collaborative innovation, opening software markets up to more local competition".
Non-EU European Economic Area Member States
In 2007, Icelandic government published the "Policy on Free and Open-source Software" that is promoting the equal treatment of proprietary and Free Software in public procurement; encourages to prioritise Free Software and open standards to avoid vendor lock-in and to promote the reusability of software that is supposed to be the goal of publicly funded custom-build software.
To be completed.
In 2009, a regulation, "Forskrift om IT-standarder i offentlig forvaltning" (approximate translation: "Regulation of IT standards in the public sector") introduced requirements for HTML, PDF, ODF and certain media formats in published documents (FOR-2009-09-25-1222). In 2013, this regulation was revised (FOR-2013-04-05-959) to include the Microsoft-developed Office Open XML format, despite objections (for example, EFN/FriBit, Fri programvare i skolen) in the consultation process and controversy around OOXML's endorsement as an ISO standard.
In Switzerland, there is currently uncertainty regarding the development and release of Free Software by public contractors. The trigger for this was the development and release of the software “OpenJustitia” by the Swiss Federal Supreme Court. The federal council now wants to examine whether the publication of Free Software by the federal administration can be allowed explicitly.
Geneva eVoting system is published as Free Software.
There are no recent policy we are aware of. But Canada is sharing several software solutions under Free Software licenses:
Web Experience Toolkit (federal, provincial, municipal) (there is a report about that in wired.
Furthermore, here the response by the Treasury Board of Canada to public feedback on missing Free Software considerations in last Open Government Plan.
In 2010, the Ministry for information society, together with several NGOs, businesses and universities, initiated and led the project of the National policy for Free Software (in Macedonian). The policy promoted inter alia open standards, and to publish every state funded project in education and research as Free Software. The policy also promoted the priority given to Free Software in public procurement, and the incentive to familiarise government officials with Free Software and to promote general digital skills independent from a particular vendor. Unfortunately, since the completion of drafting the text of the policy in 2011, the project has been indefinitely postponed.
In October 2016, lower chamber of the Russian Federation's Duma approved draft bill that gives precedence to Free Software in public procurement. The draft bill gives precedence to local IT businesses that offer Free Software for public tenders, and codifies the definition of Free Software according to 4 freedoms it grants its users.
In 2013, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology (S&T) conducted a study based on interviews with Free Software experts, suppliers, and potential users, including government contractors and government employees. The study concluded that many interviewees stressed that contracts should require that software developed with government funding be maximally shared, developed collaboratively, and provide full data rights to the government; and emphasised that the government should release such software as Free Software by default.
In March 2016, the US Government published a draft of Source Code Policy Archive (pdf) for the public to comment upon. The policy requires every public agency to publish their custom-build software as Free Software for other public agencies as well as for the general public to use, study, share and improve the software. In August 2016, Federal Government released it as the Federal Source Code Policy. The new policy requires for each of the next 3 years, at least 20 percent of custom-developed Federal source code to be released as Free Software. The Federal Source Code Policy was issued in August 2016, and in November 2016 US government launched code.gov, a principal platform hosting federal government’s custom-developed software released as Free Software.
In 2016, the interdisciplinary research laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the MIT Media Lab, changed their internal procedure of software release to eliminate the unnecessary administrative hurdle of approving the release of software under Free Software license by an internal committee: since the change of policy, any Free Software request is viewed as the default and is being automatically approved.