Bulgaria Moves torwards a Freer and More Loyal Computing, in the Service of the Public's Interest
On July 1st, 2016, amendments to the Bulgarian "E-government Act" of 2007 went into effect. One of its new articles (58a.) is as a real step forward as it provides public administrations with the means to freely modify and share software developed for them, and creates a public national repository to promote these resources
Art. 58a. (New — SG. 50 of 2016, effective 01.07.2016)source of the translation
Upon preparation of technical and functional assignments for public procurement to develop, upgrade or implementation of information systems and e-services, administrative authorities must include the following requirements:
1. when the subject of the contract includes the development of computer programs:
a) computer programs must meet open source software criteria;
b) all copyright and related rights on the relevant computer programs, their source code, the design of interfaces and databases which are subject to the order should arise for the principal in full, without limitations in the use, modification, and distribution;
c) development should be done in the repository maintained by the Agency [of "Electronic Governance"] in accordance with Art. 7c pt. 18;
Let us note that Article 65 pt. 30 states (automated translation) :
"Open Source Software" is software whose source code is publicly available for free and for which the right to review and the right to edit is under conditions set by the copyright holder.
As of July 1st, 2016, software developed for Bulgarian public administrations have to fulfill conditions that guarantee accessibility to their source code, under licensing that protects these administrations from technological lock-in, while allowing for pooling of developments and resources.
April welcomes the provision driven through the Bulgarian legislative process by the efforts of Bozhidar Bozhanov, computer scientist and advisor to the deputy prime minister of Bulgaria since 2015.
Notwithstanding the progress brought forth by this provision, some potential improvements could be made:
April notes that a reference to free software and its definition would have been more ambitious. The underlying message would have been stronger, with a clear focus on the values of freedom and of the public's interest. Furthermore, since the article refers to "the criteria for open source software", an explicit reference to the criteria of the "Open Source Initiative" might have been more appropriate. Perhaps the final wording of the Bulgarian act is the result of the complex reality of any legislative process and its attendant negotiations?
April also notes that article 58a. 1. deals only with software development and not with administrations' public procurement of software in general. Perhaps a broader provision, built around a priority to internal development and to sharing and reuse amongst public administrations, which is the case in Italy, or as we see in the American projet sourcecode.cio.gov, would have been more appropriate?
All these considerations will certainly be answered through the implementation of the text. Article 58a. creates a very promising framework for the development of a freer and more loyal computing, in the service of the public's interest. In this respect, the newly created Agency of "Electronic Governance" and its chairman, as well as the ordinance of the Council of Ministers mentionned at article 43. (2) - which will, among other things, specify implementation of the interoperability criteria - will play prominent roles in successfully reaching the objectives laid out by this text.