Bulgaria passes legislation requiring all future government software to be open source

By on 08/07/2016

Bulgaria has approved new legislation requiring all new government software to be open source and the country’s e-Government specialist has called on governments around the world to follow suit.

The Bulgarian parliament recently passed legislative amendments to the country’s Electronic Governance Act which make it mandatory for all new software written for the government to be fully open-source and developed in a public repository, which is managed by the new eGovernment Agency.  

The new legislation means that, while existing solutions are purchased on licensing terms and remain unaffected, any new custom software the government procures will be “visible and accessible to everyone,” Bozhidar Bozhanov, a senior government adviser, explained.

Writing in a post on his website, he said: “I think this is a good step for better government software and less ‘abandonware’ and I hope other countries follow our somewhat radical approach of putting it in the law.”

“After all,” he added, government software is “paid for by taxpayers’ money and they should both be able to see it and benefit from it.”

The amendment to the act proposes to “implement and maintain a public, national source repository and revision control system for source code and technical documentation of information systems in public administrations.”

The source code store is intended to host software solutions developed by or for public administrations.

According to the amendment, whenever public administrations are writing new software, and whenever they are upgrading existing software or systems, code must meet open source software criteria.

Crucially, this gives the public administrations the right to modify the code and the right to share the code with others.

Despite the change being enshrined in national law, which the  eGovernment Agency is tasked with enforcing, Bozhanov warned that “some companies will surely try to circumvent it” and called on the programming community to “insist on” the new legislation being enforced.

The code repository will most likely be mirrored to GitHub – a web-based code repository popular among software developers for features including the possibility to collaborate on projects from anywhere in the world, according to Bozhanov.

Commenting on security , he said: “In the past, security through obscurity was the main approach, and it didn’t quite work —numerous vulnerabilities were found in government websites that went unpatched for years, simply because a contract had expired.

“With opening the source we hope to reduce those incidents, and to detect bad information security practices in the development process, rather than when it’s too late.”

The change of the Electronic Governance Act can be found in article 58a:

Art. 58a. (New — SG. 50 of 2016, effective 01.07.2016) Upon preparation of technical and functional assignments for public procurement to develop, upgrade or implementation of information systems and e-services, administrative authorities must include the following requirements: 1. when the subject of the contract includes the development of computer programs:

  1. a) computer programs must meet the criteria for open source software;
  2. b) all copyright and related rights on the relevant computer programs, their source code, the design of interfaces and databases which are subject to the order should arise for the principal in full, without limitations in the use, modification and distribution;
  3. c) development should be done in the repository maintained by the Agency in accordance with Art. 7c pt. 18;

 

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About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.

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