Italian Government: funds to sustain open source innovation

Italy has been one of the most conservative European countries toward open source adoption by the public sector, but the Italian Budget law has some interesting news about free software.
Before talking about what’s new, it’s worth to mention Italy has a long story about OS evaluation.

In light of the spread of the Open Source phenomenon, the Italian Minister of Innovation and Technologies Mr Lucio Stanca decided to commission a study. On the 31th of October 2002, was established a Commission for free software in Public Administration. The Commission invited enterprises and associations for auditions and eventually published a Cognitive survey on open source software.

The proposals in the study are summarized as follows:

  • Government offices should neither prohibit nor penalize the use of OSS packages: the criteria for selecting software solutions is “value for money”.
  • Customized software should belong fully to the public office that developed it, but the proprietorship should not necessarily be exclusive. Outsourcing contracts should include suitable protection clauses.
  • The re-use of customized software owned by public offices should be encouraged and facilitated, and successful results and best practices should be shared among all the public offices of the country.
  • Public offices must be able to inspect and trace all licensed software, and must be safeguarded against the risk of a supplier no longer being able to provide assistance.
  • Government information systems should interact through standard interfaces that do not depend on a single supplier.
  • Public documents should be preserved and made available in one or more formats. At least one format must be open. Government offices can decide, however, whether any additional formats should be open or proprietary.
  • The transfer of customized software and licenses between government offices should be unrestricted.
  • Guidelines, planning tools and support services for the procurement of software products by government offices should be prepared, for which the expertise and resources present in the country should be strengthened and exploited.

The Commission suggested to let OSS would be eligible for e-government projects, as seen with the European Commission within the 5th, and the 6th Framework Programme for Research . The procurement and use of OSS was finally endorsed by Minister Stanca’s Directive of 18 December 2003.

On February 2004 was established a Working Group by the Center for the application of Italian Ministry of Innovation and Technology politics (CNIPA). The working group by July 2004 released a document containing indications on how to be compliant with the Directive.

Up to now very few public tenders have been really compliant with the Directive, and OSS is far to be considered widely as a valid alternative by Central Public Administrations.

But two days ago everything changed: the Italian Budget law is considering open source as a favorable factor in assigning funds to sustain innovation by local public administrations.
Beatrice Magnolfi, undersecretary State for Public Administration Reform and Innovation, commented the law said:

We do support Italian software industry growth, an archipelago of SMEs managed by young people, bringing innovation and creativity into the market.

But why is she speaking about an archipelago? The Italian ICT market, as shown by a recent analysis conducted by NetConsulting, is made by micro enterprise (under 9 employees) in 93,7 percent of cases; only 0,2% of ICT firms employ more than 250 employees. Now it’s where it comes from the deep interest toward small firms.

Magnolfi talking about the availability of a public forge where Public Administrations and firms might buid an IT ecosystem said:

It’s totally new! We’re making possible a marketplace where IT goods and services are exchanged more effectively, where public administrations’ needs and firms’ competencies and skills on open source platforms might meet.

Is Italy going to have its own Adullact?

Quaerendo invenietis – By seeking you shall discover..