Free Software for the European Parliament: FSFE comments at DG ITEC forum

Today, the European Parliament organised a conference to inform MEPs about the IT services available to them. It featured a panel discussion led by Adina Valean, the new EP Vice President in charge of ICT, with a contribution from Giancarlo Villela, the director of the EP’s IT department.

After the panel discussion, I got the chance to contribute a few brief remarks. Here they are.

FSFE is a charity that works to put users in control of technology. Free Software means being able to use, study, share, and improve your software.

The EP has taken some important steps towards Free Software and interoperability: It has committed to being able to receive and send documents in the Open Document Format (ODF). The Parliament has also released some Free Software of its own.

These are very good beginnings. But there remains further work to do:

  • We need to enable interaction with citizens: You can’t force citizens to buy certain products in order to interact with you. Please make sure that the EP is fully accessible for citizens and public bodies that use Free Software. It’s currently very difficult for Free Software users to watch live streams from the Parliament.
  • As the EP continues to digitise, rely on Open Standards and Free Software. Make sure that Parliament doesn’t get locked into certain vendors and service providers. Today’s star gadget is tomorrow’s landfill. Today’s best-in-class app will be an old hat tomorrow. Stay independent as you digitise. Free Software and Open Standards let you do this.
  • Here in the Parliament, the DebianParl project has built a fully free and open desktop for MEPs and staffers. It works great; but to become fully usable, DG ITEC needs to offer access to mail servers via the standard IMAP protocol. That’s a simple step to take, and it should be taken as soon as possible.

You can count on the European Parliament Free Software User Group (EPFSUG) to help you in this effort, and I’m glad to offer FSFE’s support as well.

Let’s be clear. The European Parliament is the EU’s greatest democratic institution. European citizens are right to expect the Parliament to live up to this standard. Let’s all work together to help the Parliament on this path.