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Ask Your Candidates: Italian parties offer progress towards the use of Free Software in public entities

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The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) publishes the results of the Ask Your Candidates campaign that FSFE Italy did run for the Italian election. Multiple questions have been sent to the major political parties that run for office in the national elections on March 4. We received positive statements by "Movimento 5 Stelle", "Liberi e Uguali", "Partito Democratico" and "Potere al Popolo". Unfortunately, there have been no answers by "+Europa", "Forza Italia", "Fratelli d'Italia" and "Lega Nord".

Since many years, at the FSFE, we run Ask Your candidates campaigns to send a set of questions to political parties and collect information about their standing towards Free Software and to make it easier for voters to compare their positions. Main objective of the campaign is to know the degree of attention and support of candidates and parties towards Free Software and those topics that are important for our work for Free Software like Open Standard formats, digital freedoms and net neutrality.

FSFE Italy in particular wishes to inform interested voters and citizens about the parties' positions and candidates on the use of Free Software in public administrations, a subject already present in the Italian jurisprudence by Article 68 and Article 69 of the Code of the Digital Administration (CAD). Unfortunately, the implementation of these articles is still in continuous evolution due to the nature of the software and of the current political will.

Today, we publish the full answers that we received. In summary, the campaign had a positive response by "Movimento 5 Stelle" and the "Liberi e Uguali, Partito Democratico and Potere al Popolo". Unfortunately, we did not receive any answers by +Europa, Forza Italia, Fratelli d'Italia, Lega Nord. In the following, you find our analysis of the responds given, sorted chronologically in the order we received the answers:

Results and analysis

Federico D'Incà and Anna Laura Orrico, both candidates for Movimento 5 Stelle, declare Free Software to be a benefit for the public administration because it helps in "independence from suppliers, security and the accessibility to all its information assets". The same benefits, so they say, are within the adoption of Open Standards. Both candidates are in favor of introducing Free Software and Open Standards in schools and universities, and they consider the Digital Administration Code to be an exhaustive rule but whose implementation is necessary to monitor. Finally, both candidates are clearly in favour of net neutrality which is also part of the official program of Movimento 5 Stelle, that considers net neutrality to be a "necessary and indispensable prerequisite for freedom of expression".

Luca Casarini, candidate for Liberi e Uguali, not only supports Free Software but also supports a top-down model with an "enforced migration by law from proprietary software to Free Software and Open Source in the public administration". Casarini also understands the adoption of Free Software in school and university courses as "a real strategic and educational choice towards an emancipation from the use and dependency of proprietary programs". The candidate of Liberi e Uguali strongly supports the Digital Administration Code and is committed to monitor its renewal to avoid being further weakened in favor of compromises not in line with the original spirit of the law. Such as "the weakening of the art.68 in particular, but also the repeal of Article 50-bis" during the last CAD reform. Liberi e Uguali are totally in favor of net neutrality, to support "information pluralism", citizen rights and liberties.

Paolo Coppola, candidate for the Partito Democratico, highlights the use of Free Software in public administrations as well as the Code of the Digital Administration as a pivotal tool that is already in place to promote and support its use. Coppola also points out that, with regards to software commissioned by public administrations, Partito Democratico's position "is the one expressed by Article 69 of the CAD: it must be available as open source code and free of charge". For the introduction of Free Software and open formats in school and university courses, article 68 of the CAD is still valid, which says that in public tenders Free Software has to be favored over proprietary software. Coppola considers CAD to be a good legislative framework, and as a next step proposes the publication of guidelines that aim at ensuring compliance. Coppola confirms the importance of net neutrality and says that "network and digital platforms must be neutral".

Potere al popolo state to be very much in line with some principles that are related to Free Software and wish for "the use and introduction of any vision based on copyleft licenses will contribute to the protection of workers by decentralizing the authority of multinationals". So they declare themself certainly in favor of the adoption of open formats and Free Software within the public administration. Potere al popolo even quotes Richard Stallman in arguing that "if the school teaches the use of Free Software, they can graduate citizens ready to live in a free digital society". However, unlike the other interviewed parties, Potere al popolo finds the Articles 68 and 69 of the CAD to be insufficient and they wish for more intransigent rules that fully exclude the use of proprietary software. Finally, the party shows full adherence towards net neutrality, including criticism of the European BEREC entity considered "insufficient in defining the rules for the network."


This has been the first time FSFE Italy had run such an Ask Your Candidates campaign. Fortunately, all parties and candidates that have answered our questions - Movimento 5 Stelle, Liberi e Uguali, Partito Democratico and Potere al Popolo - are in favor of the adoption and the extended use of Free Software and open formats in the public administration as well as in public education. Such a big consensus across these parties, that in current polls together have more than 50% of the votes, opens up a lot of possibilities for progress towards the use of Free Software on state level in Italy and the FSFE's demand of Public Money? Public Code!. The latter can be realized by enforcing already existing legal laws, that are in particular "Article 68" and "Article 69" of the Code of the Digital Administration. Again, with an exception of Potere al popolo, all parties claim to be in favor of enforcing these articles. If it would be for Potere al popolo, they would set even stricter rules. Finally, all parties in this sample support the existence and enforcement of net neutrality.

"It is great to see that many political parties nowadays understand the importance and the benefits deriving from Free Software" says Natale Vinto, FSFE country coordinator Italy and "in case they run successful for government, the FSFE is happy to help with the necessary implementation processes." On the other hand, Vinto points out, that "the lack of responses from the other parties can be understood as a desinterest in digital topics which is anachronistic in today's information society."