Strategy for internal use of OSS at the EC
Open-source software (OSS) is computer software that is available in source code form and is provided under a software license that permits users to study, change, and improve the software. Open source software is very often developed by communities in a public, collaborative manner where programmers create a program and make it available for others to use, as well as modify the source code and redistribute the modifications to the software user/developer community.
In December 2000, the European Commission (EC) defined a strategy concerning the internal use of OSS. It created at the time, for instance, the context for the recognition and use of the Apache Web Server as a recommended solution on UNIX systems.
In July 2003 a revised version of the OSS Strategy was presented to the Comité Technique Informatique (CTI), a committee gathering all Information Resource Managers, the persons responsible for IT in their Directorates General. The strategy was endorsed and a set of clear objectives was defined and approved by the CTI. This approach led to important achievements, the most prominent being the recommendation of Linux as Server OS, the use of Apache to power the europa.eu server and the use of open source software for the Commissioners' blogs and public forums on europa.eu.
Having met the initial objectives, the Commission further refined and revised its Strategy in line with its evolving organisational requirements while at the same time taking into consideration the worldwide developments in the field of OSS. The newly revised strategy was published in 2007 covering a timeline of four years (period 2007-2010). Within this timeframe a number of major achievements were accomplished in the Commission. Notably, the completion and formal approval of the European Union Public Licence (EUPL) is considered a milestone in the OSS domain. It is now used widely within public organisations as well as by the private sector.
The creation of the EUPL was complemented by the foundation of various community platforms supporting the OSS development, such as OSOR.eu– an award winning initiative, hosting a considerable number of OSS projects and federating with other European public administrations' similar platforms. The Open Source Observatory and Repository for European public administrations (OSOR.eu) supports and encourages the collaborative development and re-use of publicly-financed free, libre and open source software (F/OSS) applications for use in European public administrations. It is a platform for exchanging information, experiences and F/OSS-based code. It also promotes and links to the work of national repositories, encouraging the emergence of a pan-European federation of open source software repositories. OSOR.eu, since November 2010, hosts close to 200 projects and facilitates searching for almost 2500 projects through the federated national forges.
During the 2007-2010 timeframe, the European Commission's activities in the OSS domain have also lead to the delivery of OSS tools in support of e-Government processes, such as e-Prior, a procurement tool for the exchange of standardised electronic documents that supports purchase orders and service catalogues, developed by the European Commission's Directorate-General for Informatics and shared under EUPL on OSOR.eu.
In fact, the family of OSS products and tools used in the Commission has grown considerably during this period. It is worth mentioning some additional examples of achievements in this area, which very few (if any) public administrations in the world can match:
- The European Commission runs IT solutions on more than 350 Linux servers.
- DIGIT’s Data Centre manages more than 800 OSS web servers.
- The Flexible Platform for Internet Services, project available under EUPL on OSOR.eu, offering a recommended set of Web 2.0 tools for social collaboration, is entirely powered by OSS tools; it provides, among others, 40 blogs for Commissioners, EC Representations and other EUROPA sites and hosts more than 400 wikis.
- All new web applications at the European Commission are protected by an OSS-based solution for authentication, currently serving more than 300 existing web applications, more than 60 000 users and performing more than 1 000 0000 authentications on a yearly basis with more than 17 000 different users every day.
- Several corporate solutions are entirely based upon OSS. Examples are in the area of content management, surveys, e-invoicing and e-ordering, etc. Within the Commission’s IT network, an OSS-based developer collaboration platform hosts more than 770 projects accessed by over 3000 developers.
- More than 60% of the information systems developed at the Commission are based on Java. All (100%) of these Java development projects include OSS tooling (e.g. to support the build process, for testing and quality assurance, for provision of core "runtime" functions such as frameworks for model-view controller, inversion of control, etc.). A corporate reference application eases the knowledge transfer to all development teams at the Commission.
- An OSS browser is included in the desktop reference configuration available for all PCs at the Commission.
In early 2010 the Commission performed an assessment on the use of OSS within the organisation and based on this drafted its latest Strategy. This current revision of the Strategy, covering the period 2011-2013, has been indeed developed based on the accumulated experiences in the use of OSS in the European Commission over the last decade.
Strategy for the use of OSS at the EC for the period 2011-2013
The key components of the strategy are highlighted in the following Decalogue:
- The Commission will continue to adopt formally (through the Product Management procedure) the use of OSS technologies and products where a clear benefit can be expected.
- The Commission will consider OSS solutions alongside proprietary ones in IT procurements. Contracts will be awarded on a "value for money" basis.
- For all future IT developments, the Commission shall promote the use of products that support recognised, well-documented standards. Interoperability is a critical issue for the Commission, and usage of well-established standards is a key factor to achieve it.
- For the development of new information systems, where deployment is foreseen by parties outside of the EC infrastructure, OSS will be the preferred choice and in any case used whenever possible.
- The Commission will clarify the legal context around the internal use of OSS. Main topics to be addressed are: licensing schemes, Intellectual Property Rights, equal opportunities in the context of procurement and participation in OSS communities.
- Governance is essential to management of ICT; this applies to OSS as well as to any ICT asset. The current evolutions of product management, from products to solutions, will apply to OSS as well. The EC will further develop guidelines and best practices allowing the setup of OSS and mixed solutions covering the full set of needed professional services, including deployment of OSS solutions in its data centres at the same level of service as the proprietary ones.
- The Commission will continue to develop and adopt best practices and proven tools emerging from OSS communities. In addition, the EC will facilitate and promote the creation of communities for those OSS products released by the Commission.
- OSS plays an important role in e-Government projects and will be therefore considered within the framework of these activities.
- The collaboration between Commission teams in charge of the internal and external OSS strategies will be further enhanced in order to achieve convergence.
- The ICT ecosystem is extremely dynamic, innovative, and constantly evolving; as such it impacts many areas of the Commission's policies. Within this context, DIGIT will continue to play an active role in promoting partnerships between the European Institutions and other stakeholders in the field of OSS.
Relevant 2011 Documents from the Inter-Institutional Committee for Informatics
Major implementations of OSS
IPM (Interactive Policy Making)
IPM is an online survey management system that features all steps involved in a survey life cycle form the design to the analysis of results
CIRCABC (Communication and Information Resource Centre for Administrations, Businesses and Citizens)
CIRCABC is used to create collaborative workspaces where communities of users can work together and share information and resources over the web