Will Europe Go Open Source?

By March 12, 2007

The European Union studies the case for open source What if the European Union moved away from proprietary systems connected with Microsoft and Apple and gradually turned to the world of libre software? In mid-January the Europe

an Union took a bold step toward open source, publishing the report "Economic Impact of Open Source Software on Innovation and the Competitiveness of the Information and Communications Technologies Sector (ICT) in the EU". The report concludes that FLOSS (Free/Libre/Open Source Software) would indeed make Europe more competitive. That is mainly because open-source solutions translate into long-term savings. But they do involve initial efforts requiring substantial short-term investments to migrate government agencies and corporations from proprietary systems to libre software. Europe is apparently sitting on an as yet underexploited little goldmine: 63% of libre software developers are reportedly located in the EU. And the EU has a €22 billion budget earmarked for the development of such software, as compared to the US budget of €36 billion. In a show of its resolve to switch to open source, Brussels even established the Open Source Observatory and Repository (OSOR) in October 2006. This platform makes it possible for various European government agencies to store and share libre software code. France, meanwhile, wants to take its own large-scale open-source initiatives. Minister of the Economy and Finance Thierry Breton has even called for creation of a “free-software and open-source competitiveness pole.” The idea is to bring together and create collaboration among French libre software players such as the Association des Sociétés de Services en Logiciels Libres (ASS2L), whose members include some fifty libre software companies. To be established during the first half of 2007, this center of excellence will help develop projects and vet projects so they receive adequate financing and technological backing. France, Austria, and Germany: toward migration! France is gradually leading the way by promoting the use of open source in its government agencies. Computers at the National Assembly, for example, will all run libre software (Linux operating system, Firefox browser, Open Office suite) as of this coming June. The ministries of culture, equipment, and agriculture as well as the Gendarmerie Nationale (national military police) have also decided to switch to Open Office within three years. Other European countries are not standing idly by. The Netherlands, for instance, is also considering migrating to libre software in order to reap savings while reducing its dependence on Microsoft. For the time being, two departments at Amsterdam city hall are piloting a switch to open source with a budget of €300,000. While the Dutch mayor’s office says it does not intend to completely abandon software from Redmond, it does want to budget less money for it. In Austria, Vienna has chosen to implement a libre environment on its 18,000 workstations and 560 servers. In Germany back in 2003, the city of Munich developed its LiMux project to switch to open source, and in fact started rolling out the planned move to libre software last September. The English city of Birmingham, however, has decided not to adopt the libre model even though it had previously decided to migrate 1,500 computers to Linux. After converting nearly 200 PCs and spending over €750,000 on testing, Birmingham opted to kill the project and continue its partnership with Microsoft…

Legal mentions © L’Atelier BNP Paribas