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PloneGov: a Community open to collaboration

by Nicolas Bossut last modified 2009-06-30 11:08

Cities, regions and public agencies participating in the PloneGov initiative are developping cross collaboration. They help each other and form a large open source Community. Private sector is also involved, bringing technical expertize to the public sector developers. Every one is welcome to join the project and support the Community.

Based on a case study by the Open Source Observatory and Repository (OSOR), an initiative of the European Commission's IDABC project.

The PloneGov Community

Namur meeting, May30, 2007The PloneGov initiative is always open to new collaboration. It now has approximately 70 municipalities as members, in 18 countries and 3 continents, who are working together to develop the software they need. The Plone open source Community inspired the project’s structure. Like with most other FLOSS communities, there are few formal governance structures, no membership fee and no formal association.

When Joël Lambillotte, the IT manager of the town of Sambreville, Belgium, first made contact with the Plone community in 2005, what struck him was what he calls the "human aspect" of the community. Today, PloneGov works hard to build social connections between its members: "We have a meeting almost every month." This human aspect, in his view, is an important element of success.

Xavier Heymans, the CEO of Zea Partners, an international network of SMEs working with Plone and Zope, says that new towns and people join PloneGov because they see the advantage of being able to re-use the code and share the risk of software development with others. PloneGov provides a way for towns to do more things with their limited skills, Heymans argues: "Most small towns only have one person in charge of IT. Each one of these persons alone doesn't have the full range of skills to create a new application; but in a team, they can do it." Another plus is the vibrant community, lead by a highly motivated team: "PloneGov constantly attracts new potentials. People get trained faster, and they can develop applications faster", he says.

All the applications developed by PloneGov are made available free of charge on the website Those public authorities wishing to take part in the project are invited to contact Zea Partners. They can deploy by themselves the PloneGov applications or contact a SME partner for services, coaching or training, or even if they need specific development.

Different skill levels

In the beginning, PloneGov consisted only of towns, each with their own IT departments and skilled technical staff. The newer members tend not to have the same IT capabilities. To solve this issue in Belgium, the Union of Walloon Municipalities provides to Walloon municipalities support, together with other towns that have the adequate staff.

Small municipalities without an IT department of their own can make use of PloneGov's products on a server at the Union of Walloon Municipalities, paying a small hosting fee. The software produced by CommunesPlone is available to all its members. PloneGov works to make all its members' applications available to the general public. As Plone itself is distributed under the GPL version 2, most applications are published under the same conditions.