Open-Source Software in Public Administrations in Schleswig-Holstein (DE0029)
Action Plan: Germany Action Plan 2019-2021
Action Plan Cycle: 2019
Lead Institution: Schleswig-Holstein Ministry of Energy, Agriculture, the Environment, Nature and Digitalization
Support Institution(s): Dataport A. ö. R., Altenholzer Straße 10-14, 24161 Altenholz
Policy AreasLocal Commitments, Public Participation
What is the public problem that the commitment will address?
The digital services proffered and used
by our public administrations constitute
critical infrastructure for our democracy.
Complete control of the software employed
and of the computer systems is essential
to their trustworthiness.
To fulfil their duties, administrative
institutions require reliable software, the
procurement of which ensures freedom
of choice, adaptability and competition,
and which grants them complete control
of their own digital infrastructure without
making them economically or technologically dependent on any third party.
Public bodies in particular should avoid the
high costs of commercial software being
compounded by undesirable side-effects
– such as loss of confidentiality and/or
integrity of data processing, lack of control
with respect to the onward development
of solutions, or insufficient implementation of new or amended legal provisions
– caused by software providers having
exclusive rights over the development of
In the context of deploying software
packages, public trust in the state’s
technological sovereignty, especially as
regards its defence of the confidentiality
and integrity of data processing, is of the
highest priority. We are therefore following
a new and durable path in the context of IT
infrastructure in pursuit of more autonomy
in production as well as greater IT security
and data protection.
What is the commitment?
When it comes to developing software
for specialist applications, the goal is
open-source development. To achieve
that ambition, we will revise the relevant
procurement conditions, among other
activities. Schleswig-Holstein will provide access to
an online platform on which members of the public can examine, comment on and
discuss software the Land has commissioned.
In data centres, the use of open-source
software (OSS) technologies will be tested
and implemented. This will chiefly affect
server systems and databases set up with
or replaced by OSS.
In piloting an OSS-equipped workstation
for administrative bodies, we are seizing
the opportunity to avoid contractual and
financial dependence (on, for instance,
commercially available cloud infrastructure), prevent undesirable data leakage
and reduce licencing costs.
How will the commitment contribute to
solving the public problem?
Making the software used in administrative procedures open to examination
facilitates a high level of transparency.
Open licences make it possible for other
users to exploit and further develop the
software, which may well result in savings
for the taxpayer. Ideally, SchleswigHolstein will benefit in turn from other’s
developments of the OSS.
Using OSS in data centres will prevent the
growth of monopolistic structures and
entrenched dependence on major global IT
companies. What is more, using open data formats
will ensure freedom of choice and competition, since it will enable smaller and
regional businesses to participate in the
development of software. This may prove
a boon to software SMEs enhancing the
environment for investment in technological innovation.
Why is this commitment relevant to OGP values?
Creating transparency about the software used for administrative procedures
facilitates the independent oversight,
financial transparency and traceability of
automatic processes as well as long-term
use of the software.
The Land’s collaborative open-source
platform will give members of the public
the chance to play a part in the ongoing
evolution of the Land administration.
The use of open-source software boosts
competition and thereby prevents the
authorities becoming dependent on a
small number of companies.
IRM Midterm Status Summary
14. Schleswig-Holstein- Open-source software in public administrations
“When it comes to developing software for specialist applications, the goal is open-source development. To achieve that ambition, we will revise the relevant procurement conditions, among other activities. Schleswig-Holstein will provide access to an online platform on which members of the public can examine, comment on and discuss software the Land has commissioned.
In data centers, the use of open-source software (OSS) technologies will be tested and implemented. This will chiefly affect server systems and databases set up with or replaced by OSS. In piloting an OSS-equipped workstation for administrative bodies, we are seizing the opportunity to avoid contractual and financial dependence (on, for instance, commercially available cloud infrastructure), prevent undesirable data leakage and reduce licensing costs.”
14.1. Launch of platform for publishing and collaborating
14.2. Pilot on use of Open Document format and LibreOffice as standards in administrative posts
14.3. Release of source code for five specialist procedures
14.4. Release of source code for another five specialist procedures
Editorial Note: For the complete text of this commitment, please see Germany’s action plan at: https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Germany_Action-Plan_2019-2021_EN.pdf.
The commitment promotes the use of open-source software across the public administration in the state of Schleswig-Holstein. The focus of the commitment is on using open-source software in data centers and on office software programs for specific administrative functions. The possibility for civic technology entrepreneurs to shape the design of ICT infrastructure and build novel applications for the public sector makes the commitment relevant to the OGP value of civic participation. The commitment also calls for creating an online platform where the state will publish the software that it has commissioned. It is therefore also relevant to the OGP value access to information.
Open source within public administrations has acquired renewed salience with the proliferation of information security and surveillance issues  and concerns over digital sovereignty.  There are also a growing number of essential public digital infrastructures, such as smart electricity grids, electronic voting systems,  and algorithm-aided decision-making in public administrations.  The possibility of subjecting these systems to public scrutiny is important both for improving trust in the architectural integrity of basic ICT infrastructures, and for reassuring citizens that public service applications respect and protect essential civic rights.
Efforts to expand the role of open source software in the German administration at the local and federal levels have already led to a number of projects. The overall experience has so far been mixed.  Even administrations that have not yet made a concerted push for open source software typically already use a number of open source products, albeit often in a fragmented manner. 
While aggregated numbers are difficult to come by, it is estimated that the overall market share (by turnover) of open source office applications in Germany remains well below 10%, while MS Office increased its market share to 84% by 2017. Similarly, open source desktop operating systems have only incrementally grown to account for 4% of the market by 2017, while MS Windows accounts for more than 80% of the market.  A study commissioned by the Federal Ministry of the Interior identified vulnerabilities resulting from this substantive dependence on proprietary applications and dominant vendors. These vulnerabilities relate to issues around information security, legal certainty, and bargaining power for the federal public administration.  Similar implications likely also apply to public administration at the state level. Finally, none of the more than 50 specialized software applications that Schleswig-Holstein has commissioned or developed between 2005 and 2015 have their source code disclosed. 
Milestones 14.1 and 14.2 incrementally expand on some of the numerous open source initiatives in the German administration referenced above. The commitment refers to a pilot implementation project but lacks any specific distribution targets. However, against the backdrop of digital sovereignty and algorithmic accountability issues mentioned above, the planned disclosure of the source codes for a total of ten specialized administrative applications (Milestones 14.3 and 14.4) is noteworthy and goes beyond previous efforts to introduce open standards and applications for general office applications. Although the commitment does not specify which applications will be opened, the potential reference point that comes with this disclosure could lead to moderate improvements in the use of open source software.
- Problem: What is the economic, social, political, or environmental problem rather than describing an administrative issue or tool? (E.g., “Misallocation of welfare funds” is more helpful than “lacking a website.”)
- Status quo: What is the status quo of the policy issue at the beginning of an action plan? (E.g., “26% of judicial corruption complaints are not processed currently.”)
- Change: Rather than stating intermediary outputs, what is the targeted behavior change that is expected from the commitment’s implementation? (E.g., “Doubling response rates to information requests” is a stronger goal than “publishing a protocol for response.”)
One measure, the “starred commitment” (✪), deserves further explanation due to its interest to readers and usefulness for encouraging a race to the top among OGP-participating countries/entities. Starred commitments are considered exemplary OGP commitments. To receive a star, a commitment must meet several criteria.
- Potential star: the commitment’s design should be verifiable, relevant to OGP values, and have transformative potential impact.
- The government must make significant progress on this commitment during the action plan implementation period, receiving an assessment of substantial or complete
These variables are assessed at the end of the action plan cycle in Germany’s IRM Implementation Report.