is a perfect fit for the public sector. It is a public resource that
government organisations can use, study, improve, and share with
each other. For citizens, this means transparency, cost efficiency,
and the freedom to interact with their government in the way that
suits them best.
But not all government institutions are taking advantage of Free
Software. In consequence, public funds are being wasted, and
that programs that should be free are being locked away. This
also makes life hard for the Free Software-based companies who
employ people in Europe, and pay their taxes here.
FSFE explains the problem
Procurement is a field for specialists. Many procurement officials are
still not fully aware of Free Software. Combined with intertia in
public sector IT departments, this means that too many public bodies
never look beyond their long-standing relations with suppliers of
At FSFE, we work with journalists and researchers to highlight the
work of public sector organisations that are doing it right. When a
public body makes mistakes, we help them to correct them. And when
necessary, we put pressure on organisations that insist on harmful
ways of buying software.
Why procurement matters
Public procurement spending equals nearly 20% of the EU's GDP 1. The
public sector's procurement choices have very real effects on the
economy, and play a significant role in determining the sort of firms
that thrive in the market.
Even with current procurement practices, Free Software already
delivers very significant benefits for the European economy. Daffara
(2012) estimates that Europeans enjoy 114 billion EUR per year in
direct cost savings thanks to Free Software2.Anecdotal evidence points in the same direction. Many public adminstrations that begin using Free Software see their IT costs drop by 50-90%.
The public sector's buying decisions also has a significant influence
on the development of a healthy supplier ecosystem for Free Software
products and services. With more government institutions as their
customers, many such companies could thrive more quickly, and there
would be more and better Free Software programs available to the
FSFE speaks up when things go wrong...
In 2010, the European Commission made a glaring mistake. The
Commission had issued numerous policy statements in favour of Free
Software and Open Standards. But when it came to buying software and
services for itself, it went straight to Microsoft and its
resellers. Companies offering Free Software never had a chance, even
though their products offered the same functionality.
We saw that the Commission had certainly breached the spirit, if not
the letter, of the law. So we took them to task, generating lots of
press coverage - right up to the New York Times.
We want the European Commission to procure
the software products it needs in an open, competitive fashion,
giving Free Software suppliers the same opportunities as it gives
to proprietary vendors and their resellers.
We want the EC to take a long-term view of its IT strategy,
realise the dangers of lock-in, and figure future exit costs into
the price of any solution it acquires.
This is what the Commission owes to Europe's citizens. Sticking to
the letter and spirit of European procurement law would be an
…and offers independent solutions
Fortunately, most people are more open to progress than that.
We help procurement officials understand the full impact of
their actions, and we help them to do better -- not only for
their organisations, but also for the citizens whom they serve.
At FSFE, we are in constant dialogues with procurement
specialists across Europe. We observe new approaches, identify
what works, and provide analysis to decision makers. We help
specialists in different countries learn from each other.
To speed up change at the ground level, we also work with
national governments to help them draft policies that promote
Free Software adoption. In January 2014, Italy introduced a rule
requiring public bodies to first evaluate Free Software before
buying non-free solutions. FSFE's General Counsel Carlo Piana
was part of the expert committee installed by the government to
design this rule, alongside participants from all sectors of the
This is the sort of change that FSFE helps to create. Please
support us in this effort.
- Open Forum Europe (2013): OFE Procurement Monitoring Report 2012 , 2nd Snapshot, p. 2
- Carlo Dafarra (2012): Estimating the Economic Contribution of Open Source Software to the European Economy. In: Shane Coughlan (ed.)(2012): The First OpenForum Academy Conference Proceedings, pp. 11-14
08 July 2014:
The European Commission has recently renewed its commitment to a
proprietary desktop and secret file formats.The Commission is refusing
to get serious about breaking free from vendor lock-in, and is
ignoring all available alternatives. In doing so, the EU's civil
service fails to practice what it preaches.
26 March 2014:
letter to the European Parliament and the European Commission,
Free Software Foundation Europe
and Open Forum Europe are
asking the European institutions to improve their support for Open
Standards. The letter is directed to Giancarlo Vilella, the president
of the European Parliament's DG ITEC and chair of the
Inter-Institutional Committee for Informatics.
26 February 2014:
on a proposal by the UK government to use only document formats based
on Open Standards
14 January 2014:
Le gouvernement Italien fait du Logiciel Libre
un choix prioritaire pour les administrations publiques. Dans le document publié mercredi dernier, relatif
à la circulaire n.63 du 6 décembre 2013, l'agence pour l'Italie
numérique a fixé des règles de base à destination de toutes les
administrations publiques du pays qui doivent privilégier le
Logiciel Libre avant d'envisager l'acquisition de logiciels sous
25 June 2013:
Dans une communication publiée aujourd'hui, la Commission Européenne exhorte les organismes publics à libérer leur système informatique des verrous propriétaires. La commission souhaite que lorsqu'ils achètent des logiciels, les organismes publics se basent sur des standards plutôt que sur des noms de marques ou des technologies propriétaires.
20 June 2013:
Days before the protests in Taksim Square erupted, President Erdoğan was in America. On behalf of an ambitious education investment project called FATIH, he toured Silicon Valley as the guest of America's largest technology companies, each of whom are hoping to land a contract for more than 10 million new tablet computers.
02 May 2013:
On April 27, the administrative court of Almada, Portugal, declared a 550, 000 Euro contract between Microsoft and the municipality of Almada to be illegal. The technical specifications of the competition launched by the municipality prevented any company other than Microsoft and their partners to submit a proposal.
30 July 2012:
Last May 23th, the Council of Region Lazio, Italy, approved a Regional Law
on "Reuse of information and public data, and connected initiatives". With
further regulation, methods and technical rules for reusing software will be
determined. In the meantime, we proposed them a checklist of motivations by
which both Institutions and the Community would be advantages by a migration
to systems based on Free Software.
11 July 2012:
The IT department of the city of Helsinki claimed in a report to the city board that migrating to OpenOffice would cost is over 21 million euros. On 10th of April 2012, FSFE filed a Freedom of Information request, asking the city how it had arrived at a surprisingly high cost estimates for running OpenOffice (now LibreOffice) on the city's workstations. The city of Helsinki has now denied this request and has stated that it will not release any details about the calculations.
19 June 2012:
The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) has started an initiative to advance fair public procurements in Finland. The initiative concentrates on IT related procurement notices that require brand instead of defining functionalities required by the procurer. To date FSFE has skimmed over 300 procurement notices, and of those taken into closer analysis, 14 have been found to clearly violate the Finnish procurement law. These violating notices explicitly asked for tenders of specific brands of software manufacturers or products and thus discriminate all other brands and manufacturers, effectively stopping free competition.
13 December 2011:
City officials in Helsinki, Finland, are overwhelmingly
satisfied after trying
out the Free Software office suite OpenOffice.org on their laptops. 75% of 600
officials have been using OpenOffice.org exclusively since February, as part of
a pilot project where the city installed the program on 22,500 workstations.
18 May 2011:
We need your help to write a paper with details of recommended Free Software applications for use in the UK public sector. Please contribute your knowledge by joining us on Etherpad.
18 April 2011:
Free Software Foundation Europe has
provided the European Commission with input on modernising the
way in which public bodies buy software and related
27 March 2011:
As Britain reverses its traditional role and moves to the fore of European public sector Free Software policy, FSFE explains the most important recent developments.