In a world increasingly dependent on technology, the European Union has been embracing a focus on driving innovation, ensuring cyber security and strengthening its digital sovereignty. At the heart of this strategy is a commitment to open source software which is reflected in the Open source software Strategy 2020-2023.
In parallel, the European Union has also carried out numerous antitrust and trade practice investigations related to large technology companies. Thus, in 2018, the European Commission imposed a record fine of €4.34 billion on Google for abuse of dominance with android, in 2020 opened an investigation into Apple´s App Store practices, in 2021 Facebook was investigated for its use of the data it collected to gain an advantage over its competitors. And, in 2023 Microsoft has been accused by the EU of imposing Teams on Office users.
In this article, we will briefly explore the main points of the European Comission´s strategy to harness the power of open source software and identify some of the results and achievements that support this initiative.
The European Commission with open source software
The European Commission has recognised the value of open source software as a key handle for achieving its technological and digital goals. It has therefor focused the strategy on the following points:
- Promotion of open source software in Public Administration: the Commission launched the open source repository for the EU institutions: code.europa.eu in order to, according to its IT General Director, Veronica Gaffey, “move from being an organisation that consumes software to one that builds its own solutions…”
- Investment on open source projects: the European Commission has asigned funds through the H2020 programme to support and encourage open source research and developmen projects.
- Improvement of the cibernetic security: the strategy includes security audits of open source project used in the EU´s technology infrastructure through the FOSSA (Free and Open Source Software Auditing) initiative. These audits have helped to identify and correct security vulnerabilities, thus strengthening cyber security in Europe.
- Promoting collaboration and community developer: one of the initiatives in this regard has been the European Commission´s collaboration with GitHub to provide students and teachers with free access to GitHub Education, which has fostered training in open source software development and thus European talent.
- Digital sovereignty: to reduce dependence on foreign technologies, strengthening the EU´s digital sovereignty.
- Interoperability and open standards: by promoting open standards and interoperability to ensure that EU systems are compatible and share data efficiently. An example of this has been the Joinup platform which fosters the exchange of open source solutions and offers reusable software components.
In short, the European Commission, through its open source software strategy aims to promote open source to boost innovation, cyber security and interoperability in the European Union, as well as to strengthen Europe´s digital sovereignty
Results and impact
Although, it is not easy to obtain concrete figures on the impact that theEuropean Commision´s open source software strategy is having, it is possible to list in general terms some of the achievements:
Significative economic savings: the adoption of open source software in public administration has led to considerable savings in software licensing costs estimated at several million euros per year.
Strengthening of the cyber security: FOSSA security audits have identified and addresses critical vulnerabilities in open source software projects used in the EU, improving cyber security in the region.
Better interoperability: the adoption of open source software has improved interoperability between systems across the EU public administration, facilitating collaboration and data exchange between member countries.
Fostering the innovation: investment in open source software projects through the Horizon 2020 programme has stimulated innovation in key areas, such as artificial intelligence, cyber security and cloud computing.
Resistance from organisations and users
The strategies deployed for years by large technology companies – allowing the use of services for free without restrictions and based on increasingly closed ecosystems and even on the acquisition of emerging services with the possibility of competing or threatening their supremacy – continually creates users and companies dependent on their products that, due to resistance to change, try to avoid the use of other services that are more unknown to them, and that prevent other technology players with limited resources, but with great ideas, from competing on equal terms and offering interesting products.
At CARTIF, as an affiliated institution of RedIris, Spanish academic and research network that provides advanced communications services to the national scientific and university community and that also promotes the development of free software knowledge in the academic-scientific environment, we are convinced of the benefits of using open source software and therefore we try to use and support the technological tools and services that this institution offers. In addition, we also develop our own tools as a strategy to motivate, attract and maintain talent through the generation of knowledge, and we raise awareness and promote the use of open source software tools among our users over the services and platforms of large technology companies, something that is not always easy due to the resistance to change of organisations and users.