Open source in the public sector allowed!


Do you love tech, but not how it is often used? Do you believe we should ensure that technology supports and works for society instead of the other way around? So, do we. We do not want digital tools and data to be used to exploit people. They should benefit society, as stated in our manifesto.

In our digital society, the platforms offered by big tech companies are embedded in our society. However, we can and must take much stronger steps to ensure that public values are embedded in these platforms that we depend on. We have learned from the dominating positions of Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc. While they all started as disruptive innovators, they have become very powerful and influential in society.

Several Dutch institutions have demonstrated that you should not underestimate a small country. The Netherlands was already famous for it’s landmark decisions in the two well-known climate cases, the Urgenda case and the class action case against Royal Dutch Shell. Recent decisions focused on two other aspects to ensure technology is used the right way.

ACM ruling on open source

In the beginning of this year, there was a dispute concerning whether or not sharing open source software was an infringement of competition. The Netherlands Competition Authority has now confirmed its previous decision that a public administration can share the software. This recent ruling is a major step forward in stimulating open source in our country.

ACM argues that in general sharing these source codes has many societal advantages and therefore there are no indications that the proper functioning of the market has been compromised. It is in line with the strategy by the Dutch government aiming for more open source within the government, summarised as “open, unless”. Also, there is a pending legal proposal to ensure open source is exempted from the Act on Government and Free Markets.

There has been some resistance as this decision is seen by some tech-enterpreneurs as impacting their ability to achieve captive market positions. However Alkemio firmly believes that for the digital platforms that we use to run society that open source should be a pre-condition, these platforms are just too important, and we need transparency. And there are plenty of business models that build on top of open source, we simply need to include the open source mentality in our current business models. And Alkemio believes it is possible! An open source business model can lead to more innovation, knowledge sharing and collaboration, all with public values in mind.

DPA ruling on data pricvacy

Another recent examples where the Netherlands is stimulating technology to be open, safe, and beneficial for society concerned Google’s education apps. Even though the GDPR is one of the toughest security laws, big tech companies still try to get away with minimum or below minimum effort to comply. In this case, the Dutch Data Protection Authority intervened raised privacy concerns around Google’s education apps.

An audit from two Dutch universities highlighted the lack of privacy protections and breach of European law. After multiple negotiations, the American tech company agreed to alter their privacy and transparency controls. It is a small step in the right direction, with much more needed, as open societies reclaim digial sovereignty.

Stay ahead

This growing consensus and these regulations are all focused on stimulating technology for good. It is clear that technology will continue to have an important role in our daily lives. We are building on top of technologies potential for efficiency, the low costs, ability to share and connect across the entire world. If we want to stimulate open innovation, and solve societal challenges while keeping up with new technologies, open source is key. How do you use technology to achieve societal issues?