Green Party urges EU to go open-source

Some EU politicians are claiming that shifting from proprietary software to open-source could improve security and save money

A group of European politicians are urging the EU and the European Parliament to end their reliance on proprietary software, and embrace open-source instead.

Members of the European Parliament representing the Green Party and the European Free Alliance (EFA) believe that Europe's software industry would get a substantial boost if the EU and the European Parliament migrated their IT systems onto free and open-source software.

Such a move, the Green-EFA group claims, would also reduce costs and improve security.

The Green-EFA group will argue its case at a press conference in Brussels on Wednesday, having already written to the secretary general of the European Parliament, Julian Priestly, to explain their reasoning.

"We would like the Parliament, in liaison with the other European institutions, to plan to either begin phasing open source software into the IT system, or to give the choice between open source and proprietary software of the Microsoft type to the people who use software in the institutions," wrote Monica Frassoni and Daniel Cohn-Bendit, co-presidents of the Green/EFA group.

"We truly believe that by taking a step in this direction, the European Parliament could demonstrate its desire to respond to the expectations of its constituents while still remaining in touch with technological developments," Frassoni and Cohn-Bendit added.

The European Free Alliance is a collective body of MEPs who represent stateless nations.

Efforts to increase the use of open-source software by government agencies have come under intense criticism from representatives of proprietary software companies and analysts.

In Australia, efforts to pass laws to encourage the use of open source software by the government have been blasted by Bruce McCabe, a veteran IT researcher and managing director of Australia-based research firm S2 Intelligence. McCabe said: "Legislation for open source is ridiculous. Why should open-source software get preferential treatment in government?" According to McCabe, government agencies need to be educated about their software options, not have it forced upon them.

The Office of the e-Envoy (OEE) in the Cabinet Office and the DTI announced in June that to encourage publicly-funded software development, they were considering establishing open-source licence terms as the default for government-funded software.

The move met opposition from Intellect, an industry body that represents about 1,000 UK IT companies and is backed by developers including Microsoft, IBM, Intel and BAE Systems. According to the group, increasing use of open source software development by governments could have a negative impact on competition for contracts, the quality of the resulting software and even the confidentiality of government departments.

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