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Civil society pushing open source in Bulgaria

Author: Adrian Offerman

Requirements added to preliminary criteria for eGovernment projects

The civil society organisation Obshtestvo.bg Foundation has been pressing as well as helping the Bulgarian government to incorporate open source in its legislation. Open source is now the preferred development form for eGovernment projects. The Bulgarian Council of Ministers has voted that the same requirements will be applicable to all government-funded software projects.

Open source is one of our strategic goals, says Dimitar Dimitrov, a Bulgarian software developer who has been involved in civil activities for quite some time.

Public software

We have been thinking about current problems in the government and eGovernment, Dimitrov continues, thereby also searching for inspiration from other countries and governments. We found that in Ben Balter's blog, the UK Government Digital Service (GDS), 18F, the US Digital Service (USDS), and others.

We concluded that when government is commissioning contractors to develop or integrate software solutions and paying them with public funds, these projects should be made open source under a permissive license, preferably a FOSS-compliant one. Obshtestvo.bg wants these projects to be developed as an open source project from the start. This is the only way to fight the current behind-the-curtains, no-public-control way of building software for the government, Dimitrov says.

The group argues that, since the government usually does not have the capacity, the technical skills and/or the motivation to properly verify the work performed by a software contractor, the technical community could do that if these projects were made public. Other reasons to move away from closed source software are the high risks of vendor lock-in and the lack of re-use between software projects paid with public funds. And there are many more.

Preliminary criteria

In 2014, Obshtestvo.bg started a campaign, explaining this position to the public. The campaign attracted nearly one thousand supporters.

The group got in touch with Vassil Velichkov, who was working with the interim government on the Operational Programme "Good Governance" (OPGG) 2014-2020. They helped him with ideas and suggested ways to make open source a requirement in the 'Preliminary criteria for the eligibility of eGovernment projects'. It paid off, concludes Dimitrov: Now open source is the preferred development form for these projects.

The Council for E-Governance within the Council of Ministers has decided that the same preconditions should be applicable to all government-funded software projects. Legislation enforcing this policy is under way.