The on-going debate regarding the use of free and open source software in the Italian Public Administration (PA) seems to be coming to a satisfactory conclusion. Italian public administrations are now obliged to give priority to free and open source software. This preference, however, cannot be given without a “comparative assessment”. One of the tasks of the Agency for Digital Italy is indeed to establish procedures and criteria that will help to justify their choices in the acquisition of computer programs.

In this light, last January the Agency for Digital Italy (Agenzia per l’Italia Digitale) convened a workgroup for all interested stakeholders, focusing on implementing the new software comparative assessment requirements pursuant to art. 68 of the Digital Administration Code (Legislative decree no. 82/2005). Their work was completed last month. Now, the Agency will launch a public consultation and will adopt a final text for the guidelines. These guidelines will provide the Italian PA with all the operational tools for the acquisition of software.

Public administrations in Italy and elsewhere in the European Union are expected to provide efficient services to businesses and citizens, to share software solutions, to discuss best practices, and to generally share their experiences. These are the goals of the Programme on Interoperability Solutions for European Public Administrations (ISA), a programme established by the European Commission.

That said, every public body has the same freedom that any non-public body has in determining whether to acquire, develop, and release software under conditions of free and open source software. This is due to the fact that all public administrations in Italy are obliged to distribute to any other public administration all software which has been developed by or for them, in source code and without any charges (called the Reuse Rule). This fits perfectly in an all-free software workflow, where distribution under the Reuse Rule is not restricted to the Italian public administrations, but is public, to everybody.

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