Comment | Press release

Digital sovereignty is a matter of IT procurement

Digital sovereignty can already be achieved in IT procurement - with support of the open-source community.
it procurement public administration

In its recently published statement on the Sustainable use of open source for the digital sovereign administration, the Open Source Business Alliance (OSBA) calls for a rethink of IT procurement processes in public institutions – particularly, a shift from a product-focused tendering procedure to one focusing on value and solutions. According to the OSBA, only this kind of approach enables inclusion of the manyfold solution proposals and offerings of open-source products.

We at ownCloud think that the OSBA is spot on in this approach. And so is the European Union with its open-source strategy, presented on October 21, setting the course for Europe’s digital future. Both aim to create a European data infrastructure that is independent from American and Chinese cloud providers, thus creating the basis for a digital sovereign Europe.

Yet public administrations in Germany in particular often undermine this approach by bypassing public tenders. They purchase proprietary software offerings, mostly of American origin, via a process called “Sofortbeschaffung” (immediate procurement) instead of considering European open-source providers. This creates facts on the ground that often turn out difficult to reverse.

Tobias Gerlinger, CEO ownCloud

Tobias Gerlinger, CEO of ownCloud

Justifying IT purchases by claiming a significant functional gap between European and US suppliers, as is often argued, is not reasonable as the claim does not hold up under scrutiny. Especially in the open-source environment there are mature solutions of high quality. Many solutions from European vendors do not have to fear comparison with products of US suppliers. They just are less well-known and lack the huge marketing budgets.

Open-source providers offer mature, high-quality solutions plus control

With open-source software, there is no risk of a vendor dictating the rules, and no dependence on proprietary systems. It is also easier to customize than closed-source software and consistently supports open standards. This makes open-source solutions interoperable and easy to integrate. The ultimate advantage of open source is public source code. A transparent code base enables everyone to check for themselves whether a software contains backdoors that could be used by unauthorized third parties to access data.

The European open-source community offers the chance to emancipate ourselves effectively from the predominance of US tech companies. Now is the time to finally seize it.

Tobias Gerlinger

November 10, 2020

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