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From July 2012, software applications written by or for public authorities and public organisations in the Basque Country will by default be made available as open source, according to a decree of the autonomous region's government. The law also requires public administrations to re-use software made available by other government institutions.
Modernising public administration requires a massive use of technology, which makes investments sustainable, as well as openness and re-use essential, said the Regional Minister of Justice and Public Administration, Idoia Mendia in a Spanish newspaper, on 14 May 2012.
According to Cenatic, the Spanish government's resource centre on free and open source, almost half of all public administrations developed software applications in 2011. Only 18 % of them were made available as open source.
The Basque decree requires its public administrations to make their applications available on Irekia, the regional open source software development website. This repository is linked with those of Andalusia, Catalonia, Extremadura and Galicia. These repositories are managed by the Technology Transfer Centre, part of Spain's Ministry of Finance and Public Administration. They are also managed by Joinup, the European Commission's open source repository.
"Collaboration is most important", said Elena Pérez Barredo, the Basque Deputy Minister of Public Administration in the Spanish newspaper. That is why public administrations are told to use these repositories, to find applications that can be reused as a whole or in parts.
Public authorities that want to develop new software applications will have to explain why they cannot use the existing software or parts of it. "It is better to invest in improving what exists, rather than spend the little money we have available on new software."
The law makes an exception for software projects that would negatively affect public security by making the code available as open source as well as for several commercial software development projects involving public authorities. The Spanish newspaper gives as example of a joint project run by a hospital and a company, who developed software to improve the lives of the chronically ill patients; investment in research and development are handed to the company. In both cases, public administrations will have to explain why open source solutions could not be used.