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Deutsch: Europäische Kommission ändert Offenheitskonzept im Entwurf des eGov ...
A second draft of the European Interoperability Framework (EIF) was recently leaked to the press showing that the European Commission (EC) has decided to take the side of Business Software Alliance (BSA), a lobby group for proprietary software vendors.
The first draft of EIF is a document produced in 2004 by the "Interoperable delivery of pan-European eGovernment services to public administrations, businesses and citizens" (IDABC) for the European Union.
According to EIF I, open standards are the key in obtaining interoperability in pan-European eGovernment services. The document defines the open standard as being a standard that is adopted and maintained by a non-profit organization the development of which "occurs on the basis of an open decision-making procedure available to all interested parties (consensus or majority decision etc.)." An open standard needs also to be published with a standard specification document that "is available either freely or at a nominal charge. It must be permissible to all to copy, distribute and use it for no fee or at a nominal fee." The intellectual property of an open standard (or part of it) "is made irrevocably available on a royalty-free basis" and "there are no constraints on the re-use of the standard."
The EC produced a consultation document and launched a public consultation between June and September 2008 for a second version of the EIF. The consultation received 53 comments. The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) has analysed the new version of the text, showing that the Commission has based its result practicaly only on the input of BSA ignoring other opinions from companies, groups and individuals in favour of Open Standards and Free Software.
"The European Commission must not make itself the tool of particular interests. The current draft is unacceptable, and so is the total lack of transparency in the process that has led to this text," says Karsten Gerloff, FSFE's President.
While the first version of EIF considers open standards as key tools for interoperability, thus strongly supporting Free Software and Open Standards in the public sector, EIF2 contains only a description of a so called "openness continuum", which also includes proprietary specifications.
The new text no longer considers that openness is a key factor for interoperability in eGoverment services. "While there is a correlation between openness and interoperability, it is true that interoperability can be obtained without openness, for example via homogeneity of the ICT systems, which implies that all partners use, or agree to use, the same solution to implement a European Public Service" says the new draft.
FSFE has sent a letter to the people in charge of eGovernment in EU member states that says: "The current text is not a viable successor to version 1 of the EIF. Instead of leading Europe forward into an interoperable future, it will promote vendor lock-in, block interoperability of eGovernment services, and damage the European software economy. If adopted, it will be a testament to the power which is exerted outside democratic and transparent processes, and will give rise to Euro-scepticism." The letter includes a set of 10 recommendations for the improvement of the draft.
A press officer with the Delegation to the European Commission in Washington stated on 6 November that the document being circulated as "EIF 2.0" could not be attributed as an official European Commission document." It seems the EC indicated that the text was a document only intended to test public opinion.
However, the second draft of the EIF document was discussed in a meeting between the EC and representatives of the EU Member States on 12 November in Brussels. According to the German Ministry of the Interior, most member states at the meeting considered the document a good starting point, "but there are some points that have to be discussed again, including the definition of interoperability and open source."
A spokesman from the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs stated the revision was a major step back from the first version. "We informally said we were unhappy with it. The government will respond officially once the document is ready."
FSFE: EC caves in to proprietary lobbyists on interoperability (27.11.2009)
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