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PS-OSS and Gartner cite CommunesPlone

by Nicolas Bossut last modified 2007-10-26 11:05

A case study about CommunesPlone is published in PS-OSS, a well know report commissioned by the European Union. CommunesPlone is a project part of the PloneGov initiative and located in Belgium and France. Moreover, CommunesPlone is also cited in the last 'Hype Circle of Government Transformation 2007" of Gartner.

Excepts from PS-OSS

CommunesPlone is intended to help municipalities to become independent from software vendors by contracting out the development of software that is needed for public administration,  and to share it as FLOSS with other municipalities. The software is based on Zope and Plone. CommunesPlone encompasses a network of 14 Belgian and French municipalities and an international network of SMEs. It is intended to grow into an international network of public sector organisations. The project's intention to build an ever-growing network of public sector users of the shared software has been successful at a very early stage.

The software development and maintenance capacities of the municipalities that form the core of the CommunesPlone network are limited. This lack has been balanced through a close interaction of these municipalities with the PLONE FLOSS community, Zea Partners (formerly Zope Europe) an international network of SMEs. From the start, the whole project was modelled on the PLONE community organization and development practices. We like to consider this as a fourth type of programming and maintenance capacities for public sector FLOSS activities, which appears to be something of a mixture between Extremadura's “externalised customisation” and Beaumont Hospital's “cold adoption”. In this model it is comparably unimportant whether or not a public sector organisation has software development and maintenance experience, because these tasks are more or less completely externalised. Another aspect in which this model resembles the Extremadura case is that it has a spatial – or in other words – societal – dimension right from the beginning, as it aims at integrating more and more municipalities and commercial partners across Europe. Like in the GNU/LinEx case, CommunesPlone bears the potential to save cost and to improve the quality of service provision. Since it primarily aims to gain independence from software vendors by means of providing a growing pool of software that can be shared, we would like to call this model “externalised software-pooling”. This type is characterised by following features:

  • the public body has a need for software that can be shared with others at low cost in order to become independent from software vendors
  • the IT staff and the management has to define which software should be developed and shared, but the public agency does not need to have experience in software development, maintenance, and release
  • this type is driven by economic factors, the wish to save cost through sharing of software that can be purchased at low cost, but due to the importance of sharing this model aims  “by nature” at a large spatial dimension

CommunesPlone cannot be estimated with regard to spill-over effects because this project is designed to attract private sector companies to become part of the CommunesPlone network. Nevertheless, CommunesPlone provides thus an example how economic impact, even on an international scale, can be achieved in quite a short period of time when PAs strive to integrate businesses in their FLOSS strategy from the beginning .