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Input about Free Software for German OGP action plan published

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Today the civil society "working group OGP (Open Government Partnership) Germany" (Arbeitskreis OGP Deutschland) published its input for a German OGP action plan. The goal of the Open Government actions is to increase transparency, citizen friendlyness, reporting, and effectiveness of governments and administrations. The input, which was already handed over to the German Government on 20 March, consists of 30 Open Government topics, including a section about Free Software.

In December 2016 Germany joined the Open Government Partnership. Until June 2017 a German action plan is to be developed and decided by the German government.

To achieve this, on 17 February 2017 the German government invited representatives from the civil society to a workshop to develop input for a German action plan for the upcoming two years. After the workshop members of civil society groups further developed the suggestions published today. In the weeks to come the German federal ministries will examine the different suggestions, debate internally, and draft a national action plan with concrete goals. There will also be another workshop to discuss the goals between administrations and the civil society (see the German timetable for the action plan by the German Government).

The OGP action plan will not just address the federal government but should also affect administrations in the German federal states and municipalities.

Input from the civil society about Free/Open Source Software

The Free Software Foundation Europe worked together with other German Free Software organisations and the "working group OGP Germany" to summarise the topic of Free Software in the Open Government context and develop concrete action items for the government.

By publishing the input we hope to enable civil society actors around the world to learn about the OGP discussion in Germany, adapt suggestions to other countries' contexts, and to enable people to give further input to the German debate.

Below a rough translation of our input originally written in German. (The full submission is available in German at the website for the workgroup OGP.)

Introduction into the topic

Open Government offers the possibility to make the activities of the state more persistent and plausible for its citizens. Open software achieves this with its open/free licensing which is proved as an international standard. The "Open Government Toolbox" sums up 1928 IT projects from 523 organisations to help in the transition to Open Government. The spectrum of this stunning collection shows the potential of Open Government software. From data visualisation to participation tools and on up to tools for local urban initiatives, numerous projects for administration and civil society are already freely accessible.

  • Recycling: Open Software can be used for various purposes and can be re-used. Once it is developed in the scope of a governmental tender, the software code can then be used by other administrations for similar problems. A good example is "Fix My Street": originally developed as a reporting tool for damage on roads in the United Kingdom, it is now also being used in Switzerland, Ireland, Malaysia, Norway, Sweden, Uganda and Uruguay. As additionally developed extensions to the software and user experiences are shared between nations, all users benefit from the increasing use.
  • Independence: The use of Open Software offers more opportunities for procurement and selection of partners. A strategic "lock-in", a dependency on certain vendors, is avoided as the code can be maintained by other market competitors as well.
  • Neutrality of platforms: With open standards the public authorities can achieve more platform neutrality. Thereby they are no longer dependent on certain vendors and can choose a new one at any time.
  • Transparency: While conventional government software is a blackbox and is a proprietary secret, the source code of Open Government software is basically always available.
  • Participation: The Open Source code combined with a free license allows synergies of government agencies (with civil society), enterprises and citizens. Software provided by the state can be maintained and used by external users - and vice versa. Open Government software projects initiated by the state give an impetus for collaborative projects where various perspectives from administration, civil society, enterprises and citizens come together.

For the implementation of the Open Government road map, new software will be developed. Open Government software should be accessible under a suitable Free/Open license [1] to enable re-use and sharing of solutions between authorities, companies and citizens.

Our vision until 2030:

Federal, regional and local administrations share their solutions with other administrations, companies and civil society. For new solutions, the participants can refer to a collection of pre-existing solutions, re-use and improve these and share them with everyone. All solutions guarantee use independent of the used platform. Neither citizens, companies nor administrations should be technically discriminated against. These German software solutions enjoy an excellent reputation in administrations, civil society, and commercial enterprises around the world. People enjoy using them and they are further developed by other programming groups. Therefore this results in investment protection and a higher sustainability for the public sector, which will be developed further by third-parties, even if individual German administrative authorities opt for other solutions.

Suggestions for commitments by the workshop for a NAP two-pager

Level 1: Suggestions for organising the process

  • Establishment of an expert group, containing members of federal, state and municipal administrations for re-use and sharing of open software for the state and the administration (Re-use and Share OSS). Therefore, at least twice a year, an internal dialogue can take place. There, the group can tap into the topic of Open Source software and understand it in terms of overlapping administrative needs. Due to this overlap, employees from all levels of the public administrations should be utilised as contributors and architects, and encouraged to integrate, share, and promote more re-use of the administration's software.
  • Establishment of a workgroup with members from administration, civil society and companies for re-use and sharing of Free Software for the state and the administration. The workshop should take place at least twice a year to enable an exchange to listen to each other and receive feedback by the civil society for further conceptional development. There should be a strong link between the workgroup and the referring expert group (see paragraph above) in the administration. Thereby a transfer of knowledge into the public administration, and indirectly into politics, is ensured.
  • Commissioning of a study running until December 2018 to do basic research about the cooperation in public administrations in usage of free/open software. It should consider both users and business/development associations so that national and international knowledge and practical experience from study and usage are taken into account. The full potential, with the help of workshops (Collaborative Design), should be outlined. With this approach, all relevant perspectives and proposals for implementation are available for the second National Action Plan.
  • Conducting two "Plug Fest" events in Germany until 2018 as Open Collaborative Workshops, where special departments of local authorities can be brought into technical dialogue with providers of document editing solutions. With those multi stakeholder events many countries in Europe have made positive experiences for increasing interoperability.
  • Commission of a scientific study about open standards and open interfaces in public administrations (including open document formats) by June of 2018. With this the national and international knowledge and practical experience (Germany: SAGA 5.1.0, EU, Austria, Switzerland, France, Italy, Netherlands) will be taken into account. The full potential with the help of workshops (Collaborative Design) should be outlined so all relevant possibilities and proposals should be available for the second National Action Plan.
  • Commission of an evaluation study about the accessibility and platform neutrality of public web interfaces by the federal authorities until January 2018. Through this we can achieve transparency about how certain user groups are technically discriminated against by the websites of the authorities and how these sites are accessible regardless of used devices. Based on this evaluation, best practices will be introduced simultaneously. Also, basic principles acting as suggestions for creating accessible and vendor-neutral websites for authorities as well as for public institutions will be presented.

Level 2: Precise legislative steps and regulation requirements

  • Establishment of the EU ISA2 law regarding the platform neutrality in the acquisition of web service until 2019, so that citizens can use public sector services regardless of the technology used by the citizens (Operating systems: Mac OS, Linux, Windows, Android / Browser: Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer.../ Hardware: Tablet, Desktop-PC, Smartphone, Thin Internet Client).
  • Proposal for a law to set up a national software archive by 2019 which clarifies where German authorities and suppliers should deposit and store (long-term-archive) the source code, documentation, interface specifications and database schemes of their software solutions. This enables security checks and the preservation of our digital cultural heritage.

Level 3: Minimal measures (Mandatory programme)

  • Software, which is being commissioned or developed in the course of realising the OGP action plan, should re-use free/open software components and should be made accessible on the EU software platform joinup and in the "OGP Toolbox" for other governments, companies and the civil society.
  • Capacity-generating measures for the participation of Germany in the further development of the Free/Open Source Software Contributor Policy Template in the OGP (Bulgaria, France, the United Kingdom and the United States of America have already pledged to do this).
  • Until mid 2018 evaluation of which software, of those created during the implementation of the IT-planning council's action plan for 2017, can be made available in the OGP Toolbox under a free/open license by 2019. (See Action Plan)
  • Federal government, federal states, and municipalities should communicate information about the cooperation between the authorities and other participants regarding software solutions to the EU portal Joinup for publication. This will make this kind of cooperation more popular and persuades other entities to participate.