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Yet Another Step Towards An Open-source Future: German State Adopts Open-source Solutions For Public Administration And Schools

Schleswig-Holstein – a state in northern Germany – tries to separate its path from the tech giants by replacing Microsoft’s products in the public sector and schools switching completely to open-source software. Such a decision by a state in the European Union will certainly have a considerable impact on open-source solutions. Considering 30% of its population is under 30 years of age.

It will include Microsoft Office and Windows. Microsoft office products should be replaced by LibreOffice counterparts on all 25,000 computers used by civil service employees that include teachers as well. Windows operating system is to be replaced by Linux-based open-source alternatives.

This is planned to convert all public sector machines in the state by 2026.

The European Union At The Forefront

Will the European Union be at the forefront in adopting open-source technologies? Probably yes, as these practices are not new in the European Union.

Other states in Germany such as Dortmund, Munich, and Hamburg have also tried to adopt such open-source software. However, the Schleswig-Holstein case is more ambitious as it tries to implement it in the whole administration.

The rise of cloud computing is one of the reasons for emerging new laws and regulations regarding data privacy such as the GDPR (more on that later). The same goes for the open-source agenda in general. As long as there are possibilities to achieve more clarity in any aspect of the digital world, the European Union will probably strive.

Why Is Open-source The Future?

Experts believe that open-source has more potential for innovation and improvements compared to proprietary software. The reason lies in the intrinsic properties of open-source products. As the name implies, the source code is accessible and modifiable by the public. It simply creates more exposure so more developers have the chance to improve the software.

This creates a fair playground for software to compete and evolve as developers naturally tend to select software that has the most potential to improve. This process causes the software to progress at a rapid pace, with fewer costs, and more effectively.

We are observing tech giants such as Microsoft were initially opposing the open-source concept, are now shifting to this model. This may give us a more clear idea about the future of the software industry and open-source.

The Philosophy Of Open-source

The main point in open-source software is complete transparency. This is the reason we see more and more sectors are adopting and promoting this model. Using this concept, many experts can easily analyze the source code of the software. The trust is achieved this way is much stronger than relying solely on claims of a software company.

A software company can easily hide malicious practices such as collecting information about the users without their consent. Moreover, the rise of cloud computing draws more criticism about data privacy. All sorts of global data breaches and security scandals we hear every day magnify these concerns.

This unclarity and its consequences are the most important factor of emerging different laws and regulations regarding data privacy such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that came into force in May 2018.

Open-source Misconceptions

An old but common misconception about open-source products is that people might think the open-source alternatives to proprietary software are not user-friendly or lack advanced features. Although this was true for a short period of time, nowadays open-source solutions are even more flexible and have more potential to progress and adopt new features. LibreOffice as an open-source alternative to Microsoft Office products is a fine example of that.

Another misconception is that some people think that proprietary software is immune to hacks and exploitations as the source code is not publicly accessible. However, these exploits are always openly shared and discussed to resolve through a patch created by developers. This is what makes open-source codes so strong. Developers in open-source communities are extremely active. They are constantly testing, analyzing, and developing patches to fix bugs for a particular software.

About the importance of addressing these misconceptions says “…we’re introducing open-source step-by-step when the departments are ready. With this, we also create the reason for further introduction, because people can see that it works.” said Jan Philipp Albrecht – the digital minister of Schleswig-Holstein state since 2018 – in an interview by the c’t. He was also a member of the European Union and helped with the introduction of the GDPR.

Be Prepared

As discussed, it’s getting more clear that new privacy regulations such as GDPR, data sovereignty concerns, and the increasing tendency to use open-source software in public sectors are becoming an important part of the new digital world we live in. Similar to other milestones in information technology, those who endorse the trend sooner will have the initiative to prevail.

What does it mean for enterprises? Enterprises can also try to adopt these open-source solutions sooner as they will be ahead of competitors to gradually transition and get accustomed to the new environment.

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