OSOR publishes a handbook on Open Source Software in Public Administration

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The European Commission's Open Source Observatory has published a handbook to help public sector organisations take the next step towards open source, whether that be in terms of purchasing, development, technical and legal aspects, or setting up an Open Source Programme Office to increase maturity in these areas within a public administration. We put a few questions to the OSOR team.

Mission logiciels libres: What is your aim in publishing this document, and how was it written?

OSOR team: The aim of publishing the "OSOR Handbook" is to provide an initial guide to the open source community within the European public sector, compiling key solutions and lessons learned from the experience of the OSOR community. The handbook brings together key challenges and potential solutions that cover various aspects of using open source in the public sector, in the hope of bringing value to both those taking their first steps and those with in-depth knowledge of open source. The document is based on the experience of many civil servants working in Europe. It has been written as part of a long-running project by the OSOR team to provide essential information for public administrations and their officials seeking to develop or implement an open source software strategy. The writing process involved expert workshops and webinars, as well as contributions from the OSOR community, and this is the first edition of the document, which will be completed in the future taking into account the rapidly changing digital ecosystem and the community feedback we are going to collect.

You describe the benefits to be gained from a "single structure" to take charge of open source in a public organization: how can we ensure that these structures (OSPOs?) remain facilitating and do not "bureaucratize" the open source subject?

An OSPO helps public institutions by designing flexible and responsive structures, promoting transparency and collaboration, and emphasizing autonomy and agility in decision-making. An OSPO could be a way of getting started in open source, but more often it's a way for public administrations to organize and reinforce the work that's already being done. Among other things, this enables civil servants to legitimize their work, to equip them over time to provide internal advice on the purchase, use and development of open source software, as well as to plan a more comprehensive strategy and to be a single point of contact for open source communities and other OSPOs. Ideally, an OSPO works with several departments and parts of an administration or institution to best meet their needs, while being well connected with the wider community.

We describe the benefits of OSPO in supporting open source in a public sector organization as told to us by dozens of public sector leaders at workshops, but also as part of our national open source reports and the features we produce for the OSOR platform. These are real-life stories from engaged civil servants who find this organisational structure very useful in their work, and generally speaking, research indicates that OSPOs are beneficial to public sector organizations. Moreover, there is not only one right way to set up and run an OSPO - so an organisation can experiment, adjust and change according to their needs, changing business and policy landscape, and of course, the budgets.

Who is it primarily aimed at? What changes do you hope to see in the public sector organizations that take them up?

This document is primarily aimed at European public administrations and their officials involved in developing or implementing OSS strategies. We hope to see a change in the public organizations that use this guide, by observing an increased adoption of open source, better collaboration within the community, a reduction in the obstacles encountered and an overall improvement in the management of open source software within public administrations.

Thank you very much!

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