In its recently published statement on the Sustainable use of open source for the digital sovereign administration, the Open Source Business Alliance (OSBA) calls for a rethink of IT procurement processes in public institutions – particularly, a shift from a product-focused tendering procedure to one focusing on value and solutions. According to the OSBA, only this kind of approach enables inclusion of the manyfold solution proposals and offerings of open-source products.
We at ownCloud think that the OSBA is spot on in this approach. And so is the European Union with its open-source strategy, presented on October 21, setting the course for Europe’s digital future. Both aim to create a European data infrastructure that is independent from American and Chinese cloud providers, thus creating the basis for a digital sovereign Europe.
Yet public administrations in Germany in particular often undermine this approach by bypassing public tenders. They purchase proprietary software offerings, mostly of American origin, via a process called “Sofortbeschaffung” (immediate procurement) instead of considering European open-source providers. This creates facts on the ground that often turn out difficult to reverse.
Justifying IT purchases by claiming a significant functional gap between European and US suppliers, as is often argued, is not reasonable as the claim does not hold up under scrutiny. Especially in the open-source environment there are mature solutions of high quality. Many solutions from European vendors do not have to fear comparison with products of US suppliers. They just are less well-known and lack the huge marketing budgets.
Open-source providers offer mature, high-quality solutions plus control
With open-source software, there is no risk of a vendor dictating the rules, and no dependence on proprietary systems. It is also easier to customize than closed-source software and consistently supports open standards. This makes open-source solutions interoperable and easy to integrate. The ultimate advantage of open source is public source code. A transparent code base enables everyone to check for themselves whether a software contains backdoors that could be used by unauthorized third parties to access data.
The European open-source community offers the chance to emancipate ourselves effectively from the predominance of US tech companies. Now is the time to finally seize it.