[FSFE PR][EN] Dutch government publishes large project as Free Software

press at fsfe.org press at fsfe.org
Wed Dec 6 17:06:53 CET 2017

 = Dutch government publishes large project as Free Software =

[ Read online: https://fsfe.org/news/2017/news-20171206-01.en.html ]

The Dutch Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations released the
source code and documentation of Basisregistratie Personen (BRP), a
100M€ IT system that registers information about inhabitants within the
Netherlands. This comes as a great success for Public Code, and the FSFE
applauds the Dutch government's shift to Free Software.

Operation BRP is an IT project by the Dutch government that has been in
the works since 2004. It has cost Dutch taxpayers upwards of 100 million
Euros and has endured three failed attempts at revival, without anything
to show for it. From the outside, it was unclear what exactly was
costing taxpayers so much money with very little information to go on.
After the plug had been pulled from the project earlier this year in
July, the former interior minister agreed to publish the source code
under pressure of Parliament, to offer transparency about the failed
project. Secretary of state Knops has now gone beyond that promise and
released the source code as Free Software (a.k.a. Open Source Software)
to the public.

In 2013, when the first smoke signals showed, the former interior
minister initially wanted to address concerns about the project by
providing limited parts of the source code to a limited amount of people
under certain restrictive conditions. The ministry has since made a
complete about-face, releasing a snapshot of the (allegedly) full source
code and documentation [1] under the terms of the GNU Affero General
Public License, with the development history soon to follow.

In a letter to Dutch municipalities [2] earlier in November, secretary
of state Knops said that he is convinced of the need of an even playing
field for all parties, and that he intends to "let the publication
happen under open source terms". He went on to say: "What has been
realised in operation BRP has namely been financed with public funds.
Software that is built on top of this source code should in turn be
available to the public again."

These statements are an echo of the Free Software Foundation Europe's
Public Money, Public Code [3] campaign, in which we implore public
administrations to release software funded by the public as Free
Software available to the citizenry that paid for it.

The echoes of 'Public Money, Public Code' do not stop there. In a letter
to the Dutch parliament [4] Wednesday 29 November, the secretary of
state writes about the AGPL: "The license terms assure that changes to
the source code are also made publicly available. In this way, reuse is
further supported. The AGPL offers the best guarantee for this, and
besides the GPL (General Public License), sees a lot of use and support
in the open source community.

"Publication will happen free of charge so that, in the public interest,
an even playing field is created for everyone who wants to reuse this

This is big news from the Netherlands and an unprecedented move of
transparency by the Dutch government. Following a report [5] to the
Ministry of the Interior about publishing government software as Free
Software (Open Source Software), it seems that this will happen more
often. In it, Free Software is described as making the government more
transparent, lowering costs, increasing innovation, forming the
foundation for a digital participation society, and increasing the
quality of code.

    "We applaud the Dutch government for releasing the source code for
    BRP. We have been asking for this method of working since 2001, and
    it is good to see that the government is finally taking steps
    towards Free Software. In the future, we hope that the source code
    will be released during an earlier stage of development, which we
    believe in this case would have brought issues to light sooner",
    says Maurice Verheesen, coordinator FSFE Netherlands.

If you like our campaign "Public Money, Public Code", please become a
supporter today [6] to enable our work!

 1: https://github.com/MinBZK/OperatieBRP
 2: https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/documenten/brieven/2017/11/10/afschrift-brief-over-openbaarmaking-broncode-brp
 3: https://publiccode.eu/
 4: https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/documenten/kamerstukken/2017/11/29/kamerbrief-over-openbaarmaking-meest-recente-versie-broncode-brp
 5: https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/documenten/rapporten/2017/10/11/onderzoek-open-source-software
 6: https://fsfe.org/donate

  == About the Free Software Foundation Europe ==

  Free Software Foundation Europe is a charity that empowers users to
  control technology. Software is deeply involved in all aspects of our
  lives; and it is important that this technology empowers rather than
  restricts us. Free Software gives everybody the rights to use,
  understand, adapt and share software. These rights help support other
  fundamental freedoms like freedom of speech, press and privacy.

  The FSFE helps individuals and organisations to understand how Free
  Software contributes to freedom, transparency, and self-determination.
  It enhances users' rights by abolishing barriers to Free Software
  adoption, encourage people to use and develop Free Software, and
  provide resources to enable everyone to further promote Free Software
  in Europe.


More information about the Press-release mailing list