Confusion and conflicts around Open Source in Italy


What happens when lots of funding comes to digitize a country?

(this post is a commented summary of a discussion, on a publicly archived mailing list, of how some EU COVID-recovery funds will be assigned and use by italian ministries)

A recent decree has assigned to the individual Public Administrations the financial resources provided for the implementation of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR). From past experience, it is very likely that each administration will take that money and do its own things. The question is, will anybody coordinate all that spending (to try to minimize it)?

In the “fat cows” climate like the one that PNRR will surely create, promoting reuse and sharing (of ideas, solutions, etc.) may seem anachronistic, but is it really so?

Since no hardware will be bought, in favour of cloud computing solutions, all the money will be spent on software. Will it be possible to know which software will be bought, by whom, and if and how it will be reusable, and actually reused, with Open Source licenses?

That post was quickly followed by two (depressingly) interesting replies.

The first shared an interview to Roberta Cocco, to argue that much software will be bought from Microsoft.

Cocco, currently the Deputy Major of Milan for Digital Transformation, was interviewed yesterday, right before her “likely move to Rome, to join the national Team for Digital Public Administration”. But Cocco, the reply notes, has been a Microsoft employee since 1991, a manager in the same company since 2007, with a non-negligible portfolio of stocks, and still lists as “present roles” both Deputy Major and “National Plans Development Director in Microsoft Italy”, which should be a conflict of interests, theoretically:

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The next poster observed that he has never heard any member of the current italian government mention “Free as in Freedom” software. And indeed, the words “Open Source” never appear in the official “2025 strategy for technological innovation and digitization of Italy”.

It’s even better…

It’s even better, said another reply: if you compare the italian PNRR approved by the EU issued in July 2021 with the actual assignment of funds by the italian Ministry of Economy one month later, for the same projects. In the first document, Investment 1.6.4 , number M1C1-138 for the digitization of the Ministry of Defence reads as:

“Initial migration and operating availability of non-mission critical applications towards a new open source infrastructure…”

Confusion and conflicts around Open Source in Italy /img/funds-approved-by-eu.jpg
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The second document, instead, describes the same project as “migration of non-mission critical application towards a solution for the complete protection of information through opening of the (S.C.I.P.I.O.) infrastructure”, a wording that is at least confusing:

Confusion and conflicts around Open Source in Italy /img/funds-assigned-by-ministry.jpg
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Meanwhile, Europe…

All this happens in the same days when Europe published a report about the positive Impact of Open Source Software and Hardware on technological independence, competitiveness and innovation in the EU economy.

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