Wanted: EUROPEAN strategy for European Digital Commons

“Currently, we Europeans have close to no control on…”

Wanted: EUROPEAN strategy for European Digital Commons /img/euroscepticism.jpg

I found a good post about the lack of control and strategy of the European Union, if not Europe as a whole, when it comes to digital commons, and cooperation around them. Here I took the liberty of synthesizing and rearranging the main issues, but please read also the original post!

Lack of independent funding for maintainers of Open Data/Open Source commons

Open Source & Open Data are commons, but many very well known Open Source & Open Data projects have very little independent funding for their core group of independent maintainers, who cannot be replaced by occasional volunteers

Therefore some highly used tools and databases are very well known but the majority of its users don’t really know how badly it’s funded. Proposal: Europe directly funding maintenance of those commons, as these are important for the users and the economy.

Cross-EU donations are much more complex, tax-wise, that in-state donations. This has a negative effect on NGOs, which includes Open Source or Open Data foundations. Proposal: make these donations fiscally easier and less expensive to make.

EuroTech should win over “State"Tech

The tech-industry in Europe suffers fragmentation and internal competition. In each country, each government is trying to push to have local champions.

Proposal: initiatives to bring together digital companies around Europe to be global European champions for which it won’t be said “they are French, German or Italian”?

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Europe not buying European startups

Given the complete absence of local champions, it is impossible for local startups to find other buyers or funders than the GAFAMs (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft)… and hope that most jobs will stay when these companies will be acquired. Proposal: specific financing means for companies that prefer control and European independence over growth at any cost.

Cloud and Free Software/Open Source support is needed to keep control

Software can be delivered either as packaged software, or as a service over cloud platform. These two infrastructures are key both for big companies and for startups.

Currently we Europeans have close to no control on the cloud industry. The cloud platforms market is dominated by US companies (AWS, Azure, Google Cloud), and on the software market the only part we partially control is Open Source.

The European Cloud hosting & cloud providers are however fragmented [and small. Consequently they] have difficulties to invest in the software stack that the American cloud providers have.

Public services are very heavy users of software and also need for certain areas (security, military) to keep a high level of control on the software that are used. Proposal: It makes a lot of sense for the states to invest in Open Source software both for control and costs.

Open Source is the only chance to have a software industry which won’t be built on top of Cloud services we don’t control

Proposal: Europe could open an Open Source Research Center that would study the missing pieces and invest key resources in partnership with cloud providers, large companies, state users and local Open Source software companies.

My own (Marco) take?

What can I say? I agree on pretty much everything I quoted. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the hardest thing to implement turned out to be the EU-level donations. I also do know that EU programs and funding opportunities that match, at least partially, some of the requests above already exist. I have published them as proof that they likely are, for most small potential beneficiaries, still too hard to find, or to comply with. Last but not least…

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