Switzerland mandates software source code disclosure for public sector: A legal milestone

Professor Dr. Matthias Stürmer has been a pivotal advocate for this change. With a background in digital sustainability and open source community building, Stürmer has long argued for the benefits of OSS in enhancing digital transparency and reducing dependency on proprietary software. His involvement in various capacities, including his role at the Research Center for Digital Sustainability and as president of the open source association CH Open.

The EMBAG law stipulates that all public bodies must disclose the source code of software developed by or for them, unless precluded by third-party rights or security concerns. This mandate aims to ensure greater transparency, security, and efficiency in government operations by promoting the use of OSS, which allows for public scrutiny and contribution to the software code​​.

The implementation of EMBAG is expected to serve as a model for other countries considering similar measures. The law aims to promote digital sovereignty and encourage innovation and collaboration within the public sector. As Switzerland adopts this approach, the benefits of open source software—greater security, cost efficiency, and enhanced public trust—may become more apparent.

See https://joinup.ec.europa.eu/collection/open-source-observatory-osor/news/new-open-source-law-switzerland

German state of Schleswig-Holstein ditches Windows, Microsoft Office for Linux and LibreOffice

Schleswig-Holstein, Germany’s most northern state, is starting its switch from Microsoft Office to LibreOffice, and is planning to move from Windows to Linux on the 30,000 PCs it uses for local government functions.

The announcement (in German) was made yesterday by the state’s Minister-President Daniel Gunther, who has served in that position since 2017. According to a translated version of the announcement, independence was a key motivation for switching to open source software.

This is unlike the reasons that were given by Munich and Lower Saxony which were stayed to be cost savings, and then Microsoft discounted their services. Back when LiMux started, it was mostly seen as a way to save money. Now the focus is far more on data protection, privacy and security. Consider that the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) recently found that the European Commission’s use of Microsoft 365 breaches data protection law for EU institutions and bodies.”

See https://www.theregister.com/2024/04/04/germanys_northernmost_state_ditches_windows/

Estonia has published its online classroom software, Schoolaby, as free and open source software

Estonia has published its online classroom software, Schoolaby, as free and open source software under the EUPL licence. While this category of software attracted a lot of interest during the COVID lockdowns, the developers highlight that it can also assist with schooling for children who are absent due to illness or for other reasons.

Maybe the authors haven’t thought that online learning is here to stay. Not in the sense that it will replace the classroom or the teacher but rather to be of extra help – student who would like to investigate more; others who would need more time to understand; others who didn’t understand because in the class some students were unruly, or they had interruptions…


State of OSS in Nigeria

OSOR has just published the first version of its report on the state of open source in Nigeria. This report offers an overview of the country’s recently initiated digital government reforms. Structuring 36 federated states, the Nigerian central government is also coordinating a wider policy work with the other member states of the African Union.

As such, there are currently no policies in Nigeria that mandate the use of open source software (OSS) in public administrations. However, the ongoing efforts at the federal level in Nigeria are focused on creating a more open and transparent government system through various forms of collaboration and governance.

While the institutionalisation of OSS has not yet occurred in Nigeria, the country’s economic standing places it at the forefront of innovation in West Africa. Nigeria boasts a significant open source community, led by two generations of developers who have spearheaded the local open source movement.

See https://joinup.ec.europa.eu/collection/open-source-observatory-osor/news/state-oss-nigeria

No More Windows! Indian Defense Services are Switching to Linux

What’s Happening: According to a recent report, the Defence Ministry of India has decided to replace Windows with an in-house developed Linux distro called ‘Maya’ on all computers that are connected to the Internet.

While details are very slim on this distro, we know that it is based on Ubuntu and has been developed locally within a very short 6-month period.

When to Expect: Initially, Maya will be installed on all internet-connected computers in the South Block of the Secretariat Building in New Delhi.

That block houses important offices such as the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Defence, and the Ministry of External Affairs.

But, the Ministry of Defence will be the first one to get Maya, the official directive has already gone live, with an August 15 deadline.

It is good to see that more and more governments are pushing for the use of Linux across critical administration agencies. And, this certainly is a big push in India.

See https://news.itsfoss.com/indian-govt-linux-windows/

SA wants to be involved in innovation, not just be consumers of it: It’s easy! Start with open source software like Brazil, China, and Russia

South Africa no longer wants to be just a consumer of hi-tech and innovative products. It wants to play an active role in technological research & development to produce such products locally.

This was said by communications and digital technologies minister Mondli Gungubele, who will host communication ministers from the Brics countries in Cape Town on Monday and Friday. The Brics members are Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Well, this is really not difficult… You start with seeing where you can actively replace paid subscription based software with tailored free and open source software alternatives, like South Africa was already doing in the mid-2000’s. There is zero need to re-invent the wheel when we already have so much enterprise-ready open source software. In fact, this is exactly what Brazil, China, and Russia have done with their own operating systems (achieved after a previous promise at a Brics summit in Brazil back in the 2000’s). South Africa actually had the Impi Linux OS but abandoned it later in that same decade (other countries followed through while SA lost its perseverance).

There is no question at all that free and open source software actually works. We’ve seen it working in retailers, banks, cellular companies, and governments in Germany and France. You can even have cloud-based services using Nextcloud and similar software.

It all comes down to the WILL to make it actually work, and the PERSEVERANCE to see it through. You’re still going to often use consultants, and internal staff, but your money is going nearly 100% to local economic investment. There will likely still need to be government tenders, but these would be for much smaller amounts, and for ensuring a service level support service when necessary. To sustain open source projects into the future, you also want to make some contribution to the upstream projects, so there is some money that may flow out of the country, but you decide how much, and remember that it is sustaining your product that you want to use into the future.

But yes, not only do you get a free product that you can copy and tailor to your local purposes, but the local industry learns and innovates from that software as well. You’ll also find many start up businesses can kick-start themselves not having to worry about exorbitant software costs, nor lock-in to one vendor’s cloud services.

We’ve long seen that necessity is the mother of invention. When you need something to work, or a problem to be solved, you come up with solutions. Open source software helps enable this through it being able to be adapted. South Africa can rely on learners at school and university level to solve these challenges using cheap Raspberry Pi computers and free software such as Linux, Python, Nextcloud, and numerous other choices. And of course, they learn from this, and can use it in their own future business endeavours.

So let’s see if this is all just political talk, or will we actually see some active projects with real outcomes…

See https://www.sowetanlive.co.za/news/south-africa/2023-07-30-sa-wants-to-be-involved-in-innovation-not-just-be-consumers-of-it-gungubele/

China’s openKylin 1.0 arrives. Our verdict? Not a bad-looking, er, Ubuntu remix: It’s certainly not the country’s ‘first homegrown open source desktop operating system’

Version 1.0 of the openKylin Linux distro for the domestic Chinese market is here – and it works pretty well in English, too.

As The Reg reported last year, openKylin has been in development for some years. The FOSS desk took openKylin 0.7 for a spin soon afterwards. It reached version 0.9.5 at the start of 2023, and now the finished release 1.0 is available, codenamed “Yangtze” after the great river of China, the longest watercourse in Eurasia.

OpenKylin is an Ubuntu remix and it has the UKUI desktop. UKUI is one of the most polished Linux desktops around, and puts most of the more mainstream Western desktops to shame. The desktop looks very similar to the one in Ubuntu Kylin 22.04, but it had no problems with VirtualBox’s 3D acceleration and didn’t default to dark mode as that release did.

There was a decision made quite a few years ago at one of the BRICS summits in Brazil, that the BRICS nations would actually look at doing exactly this. In other words, they were going to each produce their own national operating system. All of those countries did in fact start such initiatives, but for some reason South Africa never did, and South Africa still sits in a very expense strangle-hold by Microsoft. Ironically enough, long before this in the mid-2000’s, South Africa did have it’s own government funded Linux distro that was called Impi Linux. Back then, South Africa had quite a big drive towards open source software, and for it to be a way of boosting local economic investment.

See https://www.theregister.com/2023/07/07/openkylin_is_ubuntu/

#technology #opensource #Linux #China

Open Source Policy Summit: Where FOSS and government meet: Sometimes it takes a war to make people pay attention

FOSDEM The Open Source Policy Summit is an annual event which attempts to explain the importance of software freedom to governments and policy makers.

The Policy Summit is an annual event organized by the Open Forum Europe, a Brussels nonprofit which describes itself as an “independent think tank which explains the merits of openness in computing to policy makers and communities across Europe.”

This is an important job, but you might be forgiven if you’ve not heard of it before because it has a rather different focus to commercial or community events. While businesses are concerned with things like cost-effectiveness and service-level agreements, the public sector needs to think more about issues such as digital sovereignty.

The governments of nation states need to consider different priorities. For example, if you choose some cloud application for communications or storage, you need to think about where the servers are on which those apps will actually run, and where your data will be stored. Much of the software industry is American, and many PaaS apps use AWS and other cloud providers which are also primarily based in the USA. Given that the largest war in Europe since 1945 is under way not far from the eastern borders of the EU, this is focusing legislators’ minds somewhat.

See https://www.theregister.com/2023/02/09/open_source_policy_summit/

#opensource #FOSS #government #Europe

Nextcloud announces it has a SharePoint replacement ready for production use, and that Deutsche Telekom has made Nextcloud Office available to their users of MagentaCLOUD

This announcement is noteworthy for a variety of reasons, starting with the obvious: it offers an alternative to Microsoft’s (and to a lesser degree Google’s) near monopoly when it comes to enterprise ready collaboration software. Until now, your choices have basically been Microsoft with SharePoint and MS Office, and Google with Drive and Workspace. Now there’s Nextcloud, with the one-two punch of it’s new SharePoint replacement capabilities and Nextcloud Office.

The fact that Nextcloud Enterprise comes with support (including the migration services for removing the pain of moving your data to its new home) at a fraction of the cost of maintaining Microsoft licensing, makes making the move to Nextcloud something of a no-brainer for some.

It’s also available for free, for individuals, small companies, and even enterprises that want to forego support and use the community help and documentation that’s available on Nextcloud’s website.

“Nextcloud’s initiative to offer a digitally sovereign, open-source alternative to Microsoft SharePoint is to be welcomed,” Ralf Sutorius, the lead IT architect for the City of Cologne’s official website said in a statement.

MagentaCLOUD currently hosts the data of about 2 million active users who are working with over 2 billion files containing more than 6 petabytes of data.

See https://fossforce.com/2023/03/nextcloud-gaining-regulatory-upper-hand-over-microsoft-and-google-in-germany-and-the-eu/

#technology #germany #opensource #EU #nextcloud

Lessons learnt building and maintaining National Treasury’s open budget data viz portal

A video talk given at the recent PyCon conference in Durban about an application developed for National Treasury:

We built an open data visualisation portal for National Treasury – https://vulekamali.gov.za/. Vulekamali had to make a range of structured and semi-structured data, and many other files, easily accessible to everyone in South Africa. And in ways that are meaningful both to experienced data analysts, as well as someone who never did high school accounting.

We built this using Django as a core component that manages and pulls together data from an open source Python data management system (CKAN) and an open fiscal data query platform (OpenSpending).

In this talk we share the architecture and implementation decisions that paid off, and the decisions we still regret, as well as our thoughts on how we could improve on them.

We’ll cover things like building a system to handle partial data, automating bulk file uploads, how hard it is to get people to format data correctly, and giving them helpful feedback automatically.

Source code at https://github.com/vulekamali/static-budget-portal

Watch the video at https://www.youtube.com/live/JSfg-H5XIHI

#python #django #nationaltreasury #budget