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European Parliament starts free software user group

One member of the European Parliament and a handful of their advisors and assistants started a free software group last Saturday, aiming to increase the use of free and open source software in the European Parliament’s IT infrastructure. The user group is open to all who works in the European Parliament, including staff and assistants working in political groups.

The European Parliament Free Software User Group (Epfsug) is an initiative from MEP Indrek Tarand (The Greens) from Estonia. “We will assist all MEPs and their staff who are interested in using free software in the European Parliament,” explains Erik Josefsson, who advises the European Greens on Internet policies. In the long run, the group wants to increase the amount of free and open source software used in the IT infrastructure of the EP.

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Part of the inspiration to start the Epfsug, is from a desperation with the shortcomings of the current, completely proprietary, desktop infrastructure. For example, the proprietary e-mail server and proprietary web browser are unable to offer the MEPs and their assistants remote access to their email in an efficient way, according to Josefsson.

Exasperated, he decided to use a mail server based on free software, that he hosts outside of the parliament. His privately maintained email server interfaces with the EP proprietary mail server, and offers him “a professional access to the email”. “At the moment, I run this server only for myself. But maybe we can discuss how to expand it to be used by others working at the European Parliament.”

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The group is not about moving the EP’s desktops to free and open source software. “To improve the IT infrastructure of the parliament, we would need to involve IT procurement and IT policy makers. But we do not want to burden anybody. Rather, this group is to assist all those in the EP that are interested in free and open source software, and are willing themselves to take start using it. We want to increase our knowledge and help one another with using free and open source software.”

“Getting the EP to move to a free software mail server and browser, would be a nice first step.”

This article was first published on Open Source Observatory & Repository Europe.

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