At the end of October, the Italian Dipartimento per l'Innovazione e le
Technologie ("Department of Innovation and Technology") issued a
press release (in Italian)
regarding a new set of directives for the
use of open source software in the public sector. The actual directives
are not yet available - they will not be released until officially
published by the government - but the press release gives an overview of
what will be there. Italy, it seems, is trying to put itself at the
forefront of governments adopting free software.
The following are the key points, painfully translated by your editor:
Comparative analysis of solutions: The "Stanca Open Source Directive"
[Lucio Stanca is the minister responsible for all this] requires that
public administrations must acquire software based on comparative
technical and economic evaluation of the various solutions available
in the market, taking into account the administration's needs, but also
taking into account the possibility of developing specific programs
in-house (or under contract)
and the reuse of special-purpose programs developed in other agencies.
The evaluation must consider also the total cost of ownership and the
cost of exit from each solution, but it must also consider the
possible interests of other agencies in reusing the chosen solution.
In cases where proprietary software is to be licensed, the
administration must obtain a contractual guarantee that, if the vendor
becomes unable to support the software, the source code and relevant
documentation will be made available.
Technical criteria: public agencies, when acquiring software, must
favor solutions which:
- Assure interoperability and cooperation between the various
computing systems of the public administration, with the
exception of situations requiring particular security or
- Render information systems independent of a single vendor or a
single proprietary technology.
- Guarantee the availability of source code for inspection and
traceability by the public administration.
- Export data and documents in multiple formats, of which at least
one is an open format.
Ownership of software: In the case of programs developed for a
specific purpose, the commissioning agency will acquire the ownership
of the software given that it has contributed out of its own resources
to the identification of the requirements, the functional analysis,
the control, and testing of the software implemented by the vendor.
Transferability of software licenses: Public administrations will
obtain contractual assurance of their ability to transfer software
licenses in case that agency replaces the program with another
performing the same function.
Reuse: In order to encourage reuse of software owned by the
administration, the project goals and specifications must allow for
portability to other platforms. Contracts for software developed at
public expense must include clauses that commit the vendor to making
available services to enable the reuse of the software.
Interestingly, this "open source directive" says almost nothing about open
source licensing; it is more focused on specific goals: software reuse,
ability to inspect the code, ability to switch to a different solution.
This is a good thing, of course; wiring specific licenses into the law is
probably not the right way to go. The directive also says nothing about
open source licensing for software developed for the government; as long as
the software can be reused within the government, the rules will be
There is little consensus on how strongly governmental bodies should be
encouraged - or forced - to use free software. But it is hard to argue
against criteria that call for interoperability, software reuse, and the
ability to avoid being bound to a single vendor. It will be interesting to
see what sort of software mix the Italian government ends up with after
these rules have been in force for a few years.
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