The EU should strengthen the use of open source

10 April 2017

Author: OpenForum Europe

Open Source Software (OSS) is software that everyone can run, for any purpose; that everyone is free to study and change, so that it functions as they wish; and of which everyone can redistribute copies, for example in order to help others. These freedoms provide huge potential, not least because (subject of course to the existing copyright and patent rights of others) they can allow individuals, as well as enterprise and other organisational users, to use and combine external ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal and external paths to market. This is the reason why the promotion of the greater use of and contributions back to OSS projects has always been one of OFE’s primary objectives. OFE believes that OSS is a powerful tool for the support of innovation, as well as for economic growth. Therefore, we always welcome studies that provide further support for this direction.

March 23 saw the publication of the final (258 page long) report of an EU-funded study known as ‘The Economic and Social Impact of Software and Services on Competitiveness and Innovation – SMART 2015/0015’, which summarises the importance of the European software and the software-based services (SSBS) industries, and their contributions to growth and high value employment in the EU. The report also identifies and describes the key drivers for the growth and competitiveness of these industries, in which context particular attention is given to the extent and role of in-house software development. The report presents the current and expected future growth and structure of the European software and IT services markets. Findings of the study show that several technological trends, from mobility and data analytics to digital transformation and social collaboration, along with emerging software development practices such as DevOps and OSS, will radically change the way we produce and use software. Almost any industry sector will be influenced by this shift. Finally, the report includes a number of suggestions for future policies, including the promotion of OSS.

OSS is important for the future of Europe’s  software industry

According to the authors of the study, EU policy actions should strengthen the open source knowledge base, and the exchange of best practices between private and public organisations. Therefore, the EU should do more to make the advantages of OSS clear to companies, public administrations and users in the EU. Moreover, the EU should help enterprises use OSS as an economic strategy, for them to grasp the opportunities for co-production and support technologies that help find and use OSS; moreover, the study promotes the idea of leading by example. Therefore, EU institutions are recommended to increase their use of OSS, because this would ensure long-term support and secure high-level quality control; and so enhancing communication within the OSS development community as well as with potential users, strengthening the knowledge base and the sharing of best practices between enterprises.

For a long time, OFE has been promoting the idea that Europe’s public administrations should support the use of OSS in all sectors of the economy (including use by public administrations) because OSS is important for the future of Europe’s software industry. We are glad that this opinion is now becoming increasingly mainstream.

Image credit by