Lack of public code cost the city of Stockholm €100 million
Öppna skolplattformen was developed out of the frustration of some parents in Stockholm when they noticed some irregularities and security issues in the proprietary school platform provided by the city. The original app cost the city one billion Swedish krona (around €100 million) and it turned out to be badly flawed.
Administrations are relying more and more on digital solutions to improve their workflows and to make daily processes easier. This was exactly the case of the city of Stockholm and its original Skolplattformen. This platform was meant to be used as a common digital platform for Stockholm's kindergartens and schools, by giving parents information about their children's school directly to their devices. However, the platform did not work as expected, and once some parents took a closer look at the software, they found numerous flaws in the app.
This frustrating situation made them decide to reverse-engineer the platform's API to create a Free Software alternative - Öppna skolplattformen - that offers a simpler, faster, and more secure experience. Despite these efforts, the city of Stockholm was neither happy nor willing to collaborate with the team of Öppna skolplattformen, and instead decided to start a legal investigation and fill out a police report against the developers of the app arguing misuse of personal data.
"If we could use openness as our competitive advantage and do much better collaboration with each other, we could start seeing a lot of potential for Europe to be more competitive in terms of global economy." Christian Landberg, co-founder and developer of Öppna skolplattformen
This is the story of a struggle of some parents trying to fix the problems that pricey proprietary software brought, and a skeptical administration that found itself trapped in a serious vendor lock-in. With Christian Landberg - co-founder and developer of Öppna skolplattformen - and Alexander Crawford - early supporter and strategic, policy and communication advisor of Öppna skolplattformen - we talked in depth about the Open School Platform. What drove them to release it under a Free Software license, its progress and current situation, and what lies ahead for this platform, but also for the use of public code in the public sector?
Video (in English)
"Öppna skolplattformen is becoming a snowball that has escalated and it's changing the conversation around civic tech and digitalisation of public sector." Alexander Crawford, early supporter and advisor of Öppna skolplattformen
Public Money? Public Code!
Over the last four years, the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) has been advocating for more software freedom in the public sector in the framework of the Public Money? Public Code! initiative. It requires that publicly financed software developed for the public sector should be made publicly available under Free Software licenses. The arguments for this demand are based on the benefits that Free Software can foster, such as saving long-term costs, promotion and support of the local economy, transparency, interoperability, and more.