Our societies are getting more and more digitized.
This means that more and more software is needed for the governments, institutions and agencies. This software is publicly funded with the taxpayers' money. But have we ever wondered what kind of software is procured by our governments with the public money?
To answer this question Free Software Foundation Europe/ FSFE (a charity that empowers users to control technology) has come up with the campaign "Public Money Public Code".
The campagin PMPC aims to improve public procurement of software.
Why was PMPC initiated?
Our administrations procure proprietary software and their source code is license-based or to word it differently: a business secret. In order to do so the government contracts an external supplier.
The government relies fully on the external supplier when it comes for the software. Except of the supplier, no-one else is able to provide any adaptations or additions to the software, test the software properly to make sure there are no vulnerabilities. This brings the vendor lock-in.
A lot of money goes into restrictive licenses of these proprietary software that last for a limited amount of time and restrict our rights. Solution? Public financed software to be Free and Open Source.
Why Open Source?
Public institutions spend millions of Euros each year on the development of new software adjusted to their needs.
Public administrations on all levels frequently have problems sharing code with each other, even if they funded its complete development.
Why is software created using taxpayers’ money not released as Free Software?!
With the new open-source strategy, large amounts of money are spared by avoiding the investment on licence-based software and to reduce its dependence on proprietary suppliers.
Because if a good open source solution is available, governments do not have to pay for license fees for the software. Governments still can require the help of external company to implement the open source software for them, or readjust the software based on their needs.
And if unsatisfied with the vendor, the government can contract another external party as long as the software is accessible from anyone.
One of the cities which has embraced the campaign is Barcelona. City of Barcelona is moving away from proprietary software.The operating system will be replaced with Linux.
Another country launching the campaign is Albania, where Open Labs hackerspace has officially launched the campaign on its website.
Kristi Progri is an Open Labs hackerspace member, also former intern at FSFE. She is involved with the "PMPC" campaign on behalf of OL and expresses her thoughts on the campaign in a country like Albania:
"The free and open source software are privacy-friendly, therefore they take care of the data that citizens share" says Kristi.
What would be the beneficial impact of Public Code in Albania?
"Our government and institutions are using expensive software, bought with the taxpayers' money. The free software would increase the collaboration between the countries which are using this kind of software. So by implementing open data and free software people will have the power to see what happens with their money.
Instead of investing money on this license-based software, we could have invested in healthcare system, schools etc".
Bearing in mind that the awareness around open source movement is very low, what do you think is the best approach towards the citizens while campaigning in Albania?
"It is true that the level of awareness is very low around Free and Open Source Software, people are not that familiar with campaigns like PMPC.
At first glance, it might look a bit "avangard" for a state like Albania.
Nonetheless change has to start at some point.
Until now the organization engaged with the PMPC campaign is OL hackerspace, the only hackerspace in Albania. Basically this hackerspace is the only stakeholder lobbying for PMPC. We would like to have more organizations aligned with us in the PMPC campaign.
When it comes to local collaboration and promotion, civil society organizations and stakeholders don't find it that appealing initiatives which include software.
That's why we want to spread the word initially among the government and public institutions, to internalize them with the concept and implementation procedures, afterwards we will be at their disposal for any further clarification.
A good local example is Tirana Municipality: it has done a lot regarding Open Data. It has transitioned towards Nextcloud (the open source version of Dropbox or Google drive). There are also attempts to transition towards"Libre Office"
Anxhelo Lushka, another member of OL hackerspace and involved with the PMPC campaign, highlights the importance of having the Tirana municipality transitioning towards Open Source software :
"My role within the PMPC campaign consist in translating content of the website in Albanian and spreading the word about it.
We have already the communication strategy plan and we are contacting the institutions' representatives and organizations regarding it.
We also have the website of our organization, where more elaborative information for PMPC campaign is provided in the local language. I think that having this information in local language as well, helps for a better understanding of the campaign from the people in Albania.
I assess that the campaign is going to be effective because we already have strong collaboration with the Tirana Municipality. So we have already an institution internalized with the Open Source software. Probably it will pave the way for other institutions as well".
FSFE will be running this campaign until the European elections, in order to demand that code paid by the people should be available to the people!
Until now this call to public agencies is supported by more than17820 people and 150 organisations, which have already signed the letter.