home in cologne (for FLOSSPOLS)

by P

I am back in Cologne, where I grew up, listening to a presentation about the history of the city. :) We are at the City Hall for a FLOSSPOLS workshop, organised by Rishab Gosh, project leader from UNU-MERIT. One of the participants is Peter Quinn ex-CIO of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, who recently resigned amidst the controversy (and personal attacks) around the use of Open Standards for office documents by his state government. That should be interesting (unfortunately no web/podcast available).

The FLOSSPOLS project was able to collect a very large amount of data on the use of and attitude towards FLOSS in public administrations across Europe. Even if there are few groundbreaking new insights, this is incredibly useful to provide the required evidence to push for policy actions. For example, the survey results show that, use of FLOSS helps dispel fears regarding lack of support or training, that awareness of FLOSS correlates with use of FLOSS, and that current users are likely to implement more FLOSS solutions in the future. (70% of current users reported intention for increased us, compared to 38% of non-users). On the other hand, there seems to be a significant barrier that keeps current non-users from adopting FLOSS. Or as Rishab puts it, “nobody wants to go first.”

Public administrations that are interested in customization or reported a need to customize their IT systems, are shown to be more likely to use FLOSS now or in the future than those not interested in customization. An interesting consequence of customization is that innovation happens to a larger degree in environments where the technology in use allows customization. Innovation is intrinsically linked to learning, so that there is likely to be a positive impact on skills of users and administrators in FLOSS using administrations.

Some of the policy recommendations based on the data collected:
* Increase awareness of FLOSS
* Highlight best practices and case study
* Experimentation in pilot projects
* Strengthen requirements for interoperability

Comparing this EU perspective with my own experience in Africa, it seems that in Africa the problems and obstacles are observable under a magnifying glass. Lack of skills, awareness, funding are hugely more significant and solutions to overcome them need to be more inventive and more effective. On the other hand Africa offers a much broader potential user base that has no or very little experience with any types of software, which lowers the migration resistance that can be observed in Europe and the US.