In the wake of some high profile corporate acquisitions, supposed over-commercialization and the formation of new splinter groups such as LibreOffice.org who seek to try and preserve open source's grass roots principles, the open contribution model to code development has experienced an interesting 18-months for many in the industry.
Whether or not by indirect reaction to some of these developments, Red Hat has this week issued a blog post outlining the European Interoperability Framework (EIF), which has been set out by the European Commission. The commission recognizes that open technologies are key to achieving interoperability and therefore recommends that public administrations should aim for openness at all times.
If the European Commission is right to back this initiative with its emphasis being on “open specifications” and open standards being implemented in practice, then it may help the wider cause of free and open source software application development (in the public sector at least) from the following perspectives:
- The promotion and support the delivery of public services by fostering cross-border and cross-sectoral interoperability;
- To guide public administrations in their work to provide public services to businesses and citizens; and
- To complement and tie together the various National Interoperability Frameworks (NIFs) where they exist.
Although this model is confined to Europe under the auspices of the European commission, if effective it may prove telling for procedural adoption in other developed countries of the Western world from the United States and beyond.
The EIF is more than just a typical paper from another government committee. It is the result of a multi-year, multi-stakeholder effort that sets out to shift the paradigm for IT deployment in the public sector. Indeed, in the words of the EIF, it… “should be taken into account when [governments are] making decisions on public services that support the implementation of policy initiatives… [and] should also be considered when establishing public services that in the future may be reused as part of public services.”
While the new definition does not give the open source and open standards community all it would have wished for, and some will certainly criticize the result, the EU’s policy should still be applauded as an overall statement in favor of openness. At its heart is a reaffirmation of openness and the recognition that open source is not only a key element of — but also a growing factor in — Europe and the rest of the world’s IT agenda.