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Open Standards and Open Source in Public Administrations

by Nicolas Bossut last modified 2008-04-21 17:38

Participative democracy relies increasingly on the ability of citizens and stakeholders to access public information and to communicate with officials and elected politicians electronically. To highlight the impact of open standards on democracy, the Greens/European Free Alliance organized a half day event at the European Parliament in Brussels on April 17, 2008.

Event website

lichtenbergerThis conference looked at the situation where public institutions are locked into the ICT products of a single vendor, discussed the implications of this for participative democracy and fair competition, and considered the prospects for the European Parliament to adopt the use of open standards and open source software and to promote interoperability in the European ICT sector.

Member of the European Parliament Eva Lichtenberger presented a panel about “Open Standard and Open Source in Public Administrations”. She explained that in his daily work every computer user as well as every public administration experiences problems caused by the lack of technical compatibility and interoperability.

The fact that again and again it is impossible to open or read documents attached to an e-mail are true obstacles in terms of communication. Apart being inconvenient and annoying these problems are causing economic damages and implies extra work.

Lichtenberger explained how Open Standards has become a mature and practical alternative to companies and administrations. They are a basic conditions for a free and non-discriminatory access to public information.

Over the past few years, more and more public administrations and political bodies are moving towards Open Standards in order to improve accessibility to citizens through non-proprietary systems. Lichtenberger writes: “Participation and democracy are not the only motivation for change”. She adds: “The line of reasoning ranges from the wish to diversify suppliers and to minimize dependence on single companies with all their costly updates and new versions to the need for more security in data traffic.” Prior to almost every migration to Open Standards studies were commissioned and intense discussions were held within Parliaments and administration.

Lichtenberger stated: “Those who took a decision in favor are reporting very positive effects not only with regards to savings but also to an improvement of security standards.”