A. Democratising the development of technology

5. Let knowledge be free. Do not lock technology up in patents. Use open standards and free open source software.

The sharing of knowledge leads to more knowledge. The smart city expects the compa­nies with which it cooperates not to erect walls around technology and data, in the form of patents, commercial secrets, and data licences. They should contribute the knowledge acquired to the public commons  unless there are clear risks of abuse. If a community shares in the risks of innovations, it is only fair for it to share in the returns as well.

Smart governments use open standards for ICT and free open source software: computer programmes of which the source code is public and which allow their users to modify and share them. Open ICT increases the transparency of the functioning of ICT systems and allows programmes from different providers to ‘talk’ to each other. This protects governments from being shackled to a supplier (vendor lock-in). Open ICT also facilitates the exchange of information with citizens and helps to ensure that data remains accessible in the long term.

The city of Barcelona spends 80 per cent of its ICT budget on open source projects[1] because it wants to have control over its own computing.[2] The municipality makes the open source software it develops available to others by publishing it on portals such as GitHub[3] and Joinup[4]. This includes the (source) code of its advanced citizen participa­tion platform Decidim, which has been adopted by dozens of other cities, from Helsinki to Mexico City.[5]

From digital signatures to WiFi connections, the reliability of technology can be en­hanced by implementing voluntary standards. Those standards are usually developed by stakeholders under the auspices of standardisation organisations such as ISO and CEN. Governments also make use of these standards or request companies and orga­nisa­tions to comply with them. However, government transparency is compromised if these standards can only be consulted against payment, as is often the case. Govern­ments should either refrain from using or referring to standards that are locked behind a pay­wall, or strive to make them freely available.

The algorithms that a government uses for decision-making must be verifiable and allow the government to justify its decisions.[6] The intellectual protection of an algorithm for example, when it is purchased from a company must not stand in the way of its verifiability or of the government’s duty to state reasons.

Return to principles

Further Viewing

Video: Free Software Foundation Europe, Public Money? Public Code!



Gerard Freriks

When knowledge must be free, the expression of that knowledge (i.e. information) inside system-interfaces must be based on shared standards. Only then data inside systems is 'free'.

The implication of my text is that knowledge/information inside system-interfaces is standardised and independent of hardware and software solutions such as: CPU, memory, operating system, database, etc. No longer vendor lock-in is possible.

When a knowledge/information standard is in place user communities (governments, care givers, etc) must define an Information Architecture that is implemented in all systems in system-interfaces.

Lucie Evers

Open source software is not for free. Actually, there’s no such thing as free software, as software always has a ‘cost’. The question is who pays for that cost (rather than externalize the cost) and to what purpose or goal.
Open source software can be the basis for development, but is the result is not necessarily open source of for free. It is important to structure ownership of both software and data in such a way that the ‘right’ stakeholders co-own it. Because if software were to be really ‘out there’, hyper capitalist groups would take over and ‘own’ any market (and therefore transaction) coming from that piece of code... It’s not about ‘free’ and ‘without ownership’, but it’s about common ownership and governance of shared code and data.


@Lucie: Free software does exist. It is not necessarily gratis. See www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html

More fundamentally, if commoners introduce the concept of ownership into the sphere of immaterial abundance, to which knowledge and software belong, aren't they reproducing the capitalist logic?

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