Estonian presidency in the EU: the FSFE asks for truly interoperable IT services in public sector

The FSFE submitted its comments for the upcoming Tallinn Declaration for e-government drafted by the Estonian presidency of the Council of the EU. Therein the FSFE asks the current Estonian presidency to promote greater inclusion of Free Software in delivering truly inclusive, trustworthy and interoperable digital services to all citizens and businesses across the EU. The Tallinn Declaration will be signed by EU ministers in October 2017, expressing member states' joint vision for e-government and political commitment to follow the goals set. The proposal for Tallinn declaration is open for public comments until 14 July. The FSFE is asking organisations, companies, and individuals to let EU ministers know how Free Software is important for transparent and accountable e-government.

Since 1 July, Estonia is holding its presidency of the Council of the EU. The presidency is responsible for driving forward the Council's work on EU legislation, ensuring the continuity of the EU agenda, orderly legislative processes and cooperation among member states. As part of its presidency, Estonia has set up a goal to make strong progress on the development of public digital services in Europe.

The Estonian presidency is currently planning to bring forward an e-government roadmap for both the national as well as EU levels, through ministerial declaration signed by e-government ministers across the EU. Several policy proposals indicated in the Tallinn Declaration will shape the future EU policy in this domain.

The Estonian presidency released a proposal for the declaration for public consultation. One of the key points therein says that:

"Public services and IT systems should be interoperable across organisations and platforms".

Amongst other things, this should be achieved by "opening up" government data and services. Another key point suggests that:

"Citizens should also have a right to algorithmic accountability and transparency, such that citizens can understand and challenge decisions based on algorithms".

The FSFE believes that the Estonian presidency should follow Estonia's own example of building open and interoperable public IT services with Free Software, and go further to explicitly acknowledge the importance that Free Software and Open Standards play in providing reusable, transparent and accountable solutions in the public sector across EU member states.

The FSFE extends a continuous pressure to open up government data and services into the release of software that is used for governmental e-services. The opening of data also means the opening of rules and modules that produce that data, complements it and underpins public decisions. Without that important resource, true algorithmic transparency and accountability is not possible. Hence, the FSFE demands that all publicly funded software that is underpinning public digital services is made publicly available as Free Software. Only then, increased trust in e-government can be achieved.

Our amendments and how you can help

In summary, the FSFE asks the authors of the Tallinn Declaration to amend and include the following points:

Please see our full comments for Tallinn declaration here.

The proposal is open for public comments until 14 July, which will then be presented to the member states as an input in the preparation of the declaration to define future EU policy on digital government. The FSFE encourages organisations, companies, and individuals to submit comments and directly participate in the EU policy making. Feel free to reuse the arguments laid out above for your own submission and tell the EU ministers how Free Software and Open Standards are important for trustworthy, interoperable and transparent digital government.

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