A report published by the European Commission is encouraging EU governments to share open source software resources as a way to cut down on e-government costs.
According to the study, "Pooling Open Source Software", which was financed by the Commission's Interchange of Data between Administrations (IDA) programme, a kind of software clearing house should be created in Europe in which various administrations could "donate" software for re-use. What's more, the Commission said that such a facility, which would concentrate on applications specific to the needs of the public sector, would also encourage different governments and administrations to re-create already successful e-government services.
With the cost of e-government soaring in Europe, estimated to increase by 28 percent to EUR6.6 billion this year, sharing software could help save money as well, the report said. Taking into account the cost that would be involved in localisation, the Commission said "sharing these e-government tools could lead to across-the-board improvements in efficiency of the European public sector."
"Good practice is built on proven solutions that work," added Enterprise and Information Society Commissioner Erkki Liikanen. "Software and concrete applications that work in practice are an important element of these. They could be usefully used as a source of inspiration for member states to develop good and interactive public services in the future."
Alongside its suggestion that e-government software should be issued under an open source licence, the study also said that a software pooling facility should be made available to EU members which would provide quality guarantees and help resolve questions of liability. These are some of the main issues that inhibit the sharing of e-government developments already, the report claimed.
"A step-wise implementation of the facility is however recommended, since sharing competence and good practices is more urgent than sharing software," the European Commission said. "More than simply providing software, the pooling facility should thus make available expertise and help create a community of developers, users and policy makers, providing opportunities for increased cooperation, notably in software development and testing."
Such a policy could spell good news for Ireland and its e-government programmes, which are consistently ranked as some of the best in Europe and in the world. Last month Ireland's e-government services topped the poll in a European Union benchmarking exercise, for the second time, scoring a total of 84.72 percent, well above the average score of 54.25 percent.
The Interchange of Data Between Administration (IDA) programme, the division of the European Commission behind the new report, was created by the European Commission, and is revised each year, as a way to help governments across the EU connect their "back offices" as well as their public facing e-government services
Last month, many of the recommendations in the study were broadly welcomed at a specialist hearing held in Brussels, the commission said. For more information on the report or the IDA programme, visit the organisation's Web site.