Bulgaria passes law requiring government software to be open source

Amendments to the country's Electronic Governance Act have been voted on in Parliament and are now in effect.

Amendments have been passed by the Bulgarian Parliament requiring all software written for the government to be open source and developed in a public repository, making custom software procured by the government accessible to everyone.

Article 58 of the Electronic Governance Act states that administrative authorities must include the following requirements: "When the subject of the contract includes the development of computer programs, computer programs must meet the criteria for open-source software; all copyright and related rights on the relevant computer programs, their source code, the design of interfaces, and databases which are subject to the order should arise for the principal in full, without limitations in the use, modification, and distribution; and development should be done in the repository maintained by the agency in accordance with Art 7c pt. 18."

In a blog post, Bozhidar Bozhanov, advisor to the Bulgarian deputy prime minister, said the move is to prevent vulnerabilities in government websites being left unpatched when a contract expires, and to detect bad security practices earlier.

A new government agency is charged with enforcing the law and setting up the public repository. A public register will also be developed in the next few weeks to track all projects, from inception through to technical specs, deliverables, and subsequent control, Bozhanov said.

Existing solutions are unaffected. As part of the same law, all IT contracts are also made public.

Bozhanov added that the decision "is a good step for better government software and less abandonware, and I hope other countries follow our somewhat 'radical' approach of putting it in the law".

As of the end of 2014, Bulgaria's IT sector employed over 20,000 software engineers in R&D companies and ranked third in the world for certified IT professionals per capita.