European Parliament to report on own use of Free Software

For the second time, the European Parliament has asked its internal administration to prepare a full report on how the Parliament uses and develops Free Software. Our friends over at EPFSUG have been pushing hard for this for a long time, and we at FSFE have helped where we could:

48. Requests for the second time, after the first request relating to the discharge procedure was made in 2010, a full report on how Parliament’s Free Software projects have developed with regards to use and users in Parliament, citizen interaction and procurement activities; invites for the second time to investigate, in a full study, Parliament’s obligations under Rule 103 of its Rules of Procedure with regard to Free Software and Open Standards; regrets that Free Software and Open Source solutions are not more widely used in the Parliament’s IT infrastructure;

In the slow-moving world of EU administrative processes, a report on the Parliament’s use of Free Software would provide an important reference point for efforts to make European policy makers more aware of Free Software.

So far, the Parliament is moving in the right direction, but at a snail’s pace. In March, we saw the release as Free Software of an internal tool for drafting and tracking legislation.

Open issues

At the same time, more fundamental problems remain unadressed. The Parliament still offers staffers non-free software for private use, fully expecting them to breach the terms of use of those programs.

The Parliament has also failed to make any progress on breaking free from its lock-in to proprietary vendors. It acquires most of its desktop and software through contracts made by the European Commission. The Commission, in turn, awards those contracts without a competitive tendering process to proprietary software makers and resellers.

The report which the Parliament has now requested from its own administration would represent an important bit of introspection. While not sufficient, this is a necessary condition for improvement.