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Use free software first, Italian public sector told

The Italian government has made free software the default choice for public sector organisations, the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) reports. In a document (PDF, Italian) published last Wednesday, the Italian Digital Agency (Agenzia per l’Italia Digitale) issued rules saying that all the country’s government organisations must consider using free software before buying licences for proprietary programs.

The document, “Guidelines on comparative evaluation [of software]”, sets out a detailed method which public bodies must follow when deciding which software to use. They are required to look for suitable free software programs or choose software developed by the public sector. They may only consider procuring proprietary software no suitable programs of these types are available.

“There is no excuse. All public administrations must opt for free software or re-use whenever possible”, says FSFE General Counsel Carlo Piana, who was part of the committee that advised on the guideline. “Now free software and re-use are the norm, proprietary software the exception. This is the most advanced affirmative action in Europe so far. I’m so proud that Italy leads the way, for once”.

The document was authored by the Italian Digital Agency, which for the first time consulted representatives from the public sector, the free software community, and proprietary software makers.

Importantly, the new rules come with a mechanism to ensure they are followed. Both public bodies and members of the public can ask the Italian Digital Agency to check if a given organisation is following the correct procedure. Administrative courts can annul decisions that contravene these rules and, in the event of negligence, individual public servants may be held personally liable.

Reposted from the chief scribe’s blog.