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.
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.
On the occasion of the 2019 European elections and ahead of France’s 2022 presidential elections, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched in 2019 a toolbox of open source software and open resources to fight disinformation. As of December 2021, Internet users can access software to detect fake Twitter accounts, assess the legality of political advertisement on Facebook, and use multiple further resources on good practices to counter disinformation. Further work is ongoing to develop and deploy additional online resources.
Fake news, disinformation, misinformation: in the past decade, the manipulation of publicly available information on online platforms and social media soared tremendously in Europe and beyond. In 2018, 83% of respondents to a Eurobarometer survey indicated that fake news represent a danger to democracy.
In doing so, the state wants to reduce its dependence on proprietary software, and eventually end it altogether. By the end of 2026, Microsoft Office is to be replaced by LibreOffice on all 25,000 computers used by civil servants and employees (including teachers), and the Windows operating system is to be replaced by GNU/Linux.
The release happened as a result of a decree of Open Government from 30 October 2019 after the French government joined the Open Government Partnership in April 2014. After two years of work, the site hit version 1.0 on Wednesday.
This really allows further re-use of publicly funded code, and also serves as a boost for their own small businesses who want to make use of it for themselves or to serve their customers.
The organisation is also looking for an accredited service provider for the provision of open source e-business technologies on an on-demand basis for a period of three years. Non-compulsory briefing: 21 Feb Tender no: GNP- 039- 19 Information: Technical: Nedret Saidova, Tel: (012) 426 5283, E-mail: Nedret.Saidova@sanparks.org. General: Quinton Chetty, Tel: (012) 426 5247, E-mail: Quinton.Chetty@sanparks.org. Closing date: 6 Mar 2020
Communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams is concerned that SA relies heavily on software produced by the West or the East and says its time government focuses on home-grown technologies.
Her reasoning is that if US president Donald Trump, for example, was to prevent all US companies from operating in SA, the country could be in trouble.
Our view is that open source software offers the ideal vehicle for this as it’s already available, in use in many enterprises as well as governments, and can be modified for use within South Africa without starting from scratch. No-one can disable or refuse our access to open source software, and this also gives South Africa an opportunity to contribute back to open source communities globally. Open source would also mean that South Africa cannot be held hostage even by local vendors (which has happened in the past). Savings from existing annual licensing can be ploughed into this initiative as local economic investment.