Norwegian Free Software Center Opposes Government Pro FOSS Policy

Andreas Tolf Tolfsen ato at
Fri Sep 10 23:08:28 UTC 2010

* Also sprach Sam Tuke <samtuke at>:
> This is old news, but I wonder if people were aware of it at the time?:
> Blog/Norwegian-Free-Software-Center-Opposes-Government-Pro-FOSS-Policy

I have translated this article into English:

Preference Policy for Free Software?  No Thank You!

Will there come a preference policy for free software?  The Minister for
Renewal has been challenged about this earlier.  Her answer is that she has a
pragmatic relationship with free software.  Great - the Norwegian Competence
Centre for Free Software does too.

In other words, we do not need a preference policy towards free software.
Software is something we need not or should not be for or against.  It is not a
political matter one needs to consider, like [economical support for people
deciding to be home with their children instead of sending them to
kindergardens] or oil drilling.  A preferential policy will mainly be about
whether public enterprises should be required to choose free software over
closed software.

Software development points in a direction of open solutions, shared
development environments and healthy competition.  Free software has a central
place in all ICT (Information and communications technologies) developments,
and is already a competitive direction for development.  Qualitative and
quantitative analysis indicates increased use and a multitude of solutions.
Free software holds a significant position in Norwegian and global IT industry,
and is delivered by many Norwegian consulting- and software development
enterprises, as well as from global [mammothal companies].  Free software has
become big business, and we would not have been witness to global successes
such as Facebook or the Android[e] [sic!] mobile platform without open
developent environments.  The development model is open, but it is clear that
there are large commercial interests behind it.

Free software is increasingly prefered in large mission-critical IT solutions.
NAV (the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration), Bankenes
betalingssentral (centralized management of payment transactions), Norwegian
(airline), Statsbygg (governmental construction agency), Elkjøp (large
electronics retailer), NSB (Norwegian railways), Statens Pensjonskasse (the
Government's Pension Fund), Husbanken (the Governmental Housing Bank), Statens
Kartverk (Norwegian Mapping and Cadastre Authority), DIFI (Agency for Public
Management and eGovernment), Avinor (air control), Euronics (electronics
retailer), Oslo Børs (stock exchange), Oslo kommune (municipality, capital
city), Bærum kommune, Alta kommune og Asker kommune are just some of those who
use solutions based soley or partially on free software.  Free software is
selected in tough competition with closed software, simply because it has a
competitive advantage.

Free software will remain important for ICT development in the public sector in
the years to come, but to require public enterprises and entities to use free
software will not only be unnecessary, but also impossible to implement.  If
one were to put constraints on the choice of software to individual projects,
this could also lead to the individual public entity could not choose the best
solution.  Increased use of free software is important for the development of
ICT in public sector, but it must be based on the premise that free software is
the best solution in competition to closed software.  When we, [the Norwegian
Competence Centre for Free Software], meet a public enterprise we ocus on that
they should consider free software as an option in all their solutions.  [But]
free software must never be chosen at any cost.  Only where it through
consideration is deemed to be the best alternative.

Nevertheless, we call for a clear renewal policy, which includes sharing, reuse
and openness.  [The National Competence Centre for Free Software] recently
conducted a survey of municipality politicans' attitudes toward IT as a
strategic management tool.  Not unexpectedly, this is a missing theme in the
majority of Norwegian municipalities.  [The Norwegian Association of Local and
Reginal Authorities]' eMunicipality-survey [sic!] from May 2010 also shows that
it is on track to develop A and B municipalites [here: refering to qualitative
difference between municipalities] over who is able to provide efficent and
good public services.  And re-use of sector-specific software developed with
public funds is virtually non-existent.  Another negative trend is that large
public enterprises with good expertise in greater respect than the smaller
entities are able to make financial gains from the use of free software.  This
also applies to other areas of ICT such as architecture and security.  Reuse,
sharing is the key to close this gap.

In [the Norwegian Competence Centre for Free Software] get many inquiries from
businesses that want information on free software.  The trend is that requests
go from focusing on what free software is, to specific requests related to the
reuse of software between public enterprises.  The need for information and
good examples are increasing, and we see public institutions as pragmatic when
choosing between free and closed software.  But, of course, most public
agencies use both closed and free software in their IT architecture.  Apart
from an increased demand related to free software, we see that the public
sector cries out for a more comprehensive ICT investment from the central
government.  An ordinary municipality currently has between 1-3 employed in the
ICT department, responsible for everything from operations to strategy.  These
activities are entirely dependent on a common ICT effort to close the gap
between the small municipalities with poor economy and the larger, more
resourceful municipalities.

Increased focus on common components, better coordination of government ICT
investments and the total reorganization of municipal e-government are some of
the measures we believe should be given priority in the years to come.  In this
work, open source software play a central role simply because the state though
the development of common components must be especially aware of the danger
that some suppliers have monopolies based on closed software.  Free software
will also be important to further develop a competitive Norwegian IT industry,
which increases the communities economic growth.

Best regards,

Andreas Tolf Tolfsen
Deputy Webmaster, FSFE
<ato at>

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