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Open-Source Software for Governments in Spain

BY Miranda Neubauer | Wednesday, May 30 2012

Two autonomous regions of Spain have recently made strides towards promoting open-source software for governmental use.

The government of the autonomous Basque Country in Spain decreed earlier this month that all software applications written by or for public authorities and public organizations will be made available to others as open-source by default, according to a post on Joinup, an European Commission platform to share knowledge and experiences on e-Government topics among public administration employees.

Under the decree, public administrations are instructed to make their applications available on Irekia, the region's open source software development website, which is linked with the repositories of Andalusia, Catalonia, Extremadura and Galicia, the post says, citing an article from El Pais.

Those repositories are also associated with the Technology Transfer Centre, which is part of Spain's Ministry of Finance and Public Administration, as well as with Joinup.

Public authorities which seek to develop new software will have to explain why they can't use existing software or parts of existing software.

Modernizing public administration requires a massive use of technology and that makes sustainable investments, openness and re-use essential, said Idoia Mendia, the region's Minister of Justice and Administration, per El Pais.

The law makes an exception for projects where making code available would negatively affect public security and for certain commercial software development projects involving public authorities.

The region of Galicia also recently announced plans to invest €915,000 to promote the use of free and open source software to enterprises, public administrations and public organizations, according to a separate post on Joinup. Galicia, also an autonomous region, will in addition undertake a feasibility study on the use of free office tools for all of its staff.

Since it first designed an open government strategy in 2010 and started a free software project for schools that combines Drupal, Moodle and Coppermine, the regional government has saved 2.5 million euros in 2010 and 2011, while the use of free and open source software by the region's public administrations has increased from 46 per cent in 2009 to 94 percent now, according to Joinup. Galicia also plans to institute a policy requiring public administrations to first consider the use of such tools before procuring proprietary alternatives.

According to Cenatic, the Spanish government's resource center for open source, almost half of all public administrations in Spain had software applications made in 2011, but only 18 percent of these were made available as open source.

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