Open Source Governance: State of the Art and Lesson Learnt in Italy (part II)

First Monday - the famous peer-reviewed journal – recently published an interesting paper on open source collaboration in the US Public Sector, resulting probably one of the first research covering open source governance in the public sector.

Before commenting its findings and see how and if they could be applied to the Italian situation, I wish to end to recap issues raised during the “Open Source Governance” held in Rome last October.

The meeting investigated administrative, legal, organizational and technical issues with panelists coming from public administrations and universities – both covered in my previous post –  law firms and IT vendors.

Carlo Piana, an Information Technology lawyer and a Free Software advocate, talked extensively about free software licenses, introducing the audience to the idea of copyleft and explaining how copyright has been used to grant people the four freedoms. During his speech I asked Carlo to tell us about how interoperability with Microsoft proprietary systems has been established, going beyond obligations imposed by the EC and resulting in a important lesson for the future.

Italian IT Vendors

Accenture and Microsoft representatives were invited to present their experiences and views on open source governance, getting before the event some criticisms from Italian free software activists. While I can’t report anything about Microsoft no show, due to some unforeseen personal problem of the speaker, I think that Accenture’s speech deserves attention in view of the fact that it contained a number of revelations.

Alessandra de Seneen, executive partner system integration & technology di Accenture, reported about Accenture’s experiene within a public-financed project, named itri@mkgt. The Portal for the Territorial Marketing of the Valley of Itria aims at providing public authorities, citizens and enterprises with a set of tools to develop territorial marketing initiatives.

Alessandra talking about lessons learnt, said that interacting with the LifeRay community was easy, allowing Accenture to fastly close LifeRay’s bugs, showing the importance of users’ feedback. Easiness of integration was also key, mostly due to open source software compatibility with technological standards. Last but not least the low barriers to open source technology adoption. Open source maturity maybe critical – she said – so open source software selection has to be carried on before starting a project.

Accenture Italian representative gave a picture of the way Accenture approaches open source, showing that they are still in the first stages of community open source engagement, somewhere between stage 1 and stage 2, as defined by Ian Skerrett. In fact Accenture asked a third party to develop the portal, as well as to integrate open source packages like DimDim, Pentaho and others.

Accenture, just like other Italian solution providers, is far from being able to champion engagement and empowerment, its approach to open source is just tactical. Despite its ability to internationally teaming with open source actors like SpringSource, Accenture here seems to lack the opportunity to implement business practices based (also) on open source software, and ends by delegating projects’ execution.

Final considerations will be covered in the next post.