Germany's software applications for procurement will gradually be made available as open source.
"The software is paid for by the citizens, and it is therefore reasonable to make the source code publicly available", says Rolf Kewitz, Project Leader of eTendering, at the Procurement Office of the Federal Ministry of the Interior (Beschaffungsamt des Bundesministeriums des Innern - BeschA, in German). Some parts of the tools will have to be rewritten to remove proprietary dependencies.
The eProcurement platform, called eVergabe (eAwarding) is a set of tools used by several federal agencies and some of the country's states and municipalities. There is a separate client, intended to be used by companies that respond to calls for tenders.
Mr Kewitz stated that eVergabe will be made open source step by step. "The first component will be the bid-client, which companies must use to communicate with us." The BeschA expects to be able to release this client application as open source sometime next year (2013).
Depending on the experience with the bid-client, the BeschA will one or two years later publish the source code for the software used by the public administrations. "We think that this is just the beginning", says Kewitz. "Over time our entire eVergabe tool will be open source."
BeschA shares part of the copyright of the code with the company that developed the software. Kewitz assures that this will not stand in the way of publishing the code as open source, as parts of the applications will have to be partly rewritten. This is needed to remove the current dependencies on proprietary tools, including an interface to a database management system and encryption software.
"We plan to do quite a bit of reprogramming to get rid of this dependency on the database's proprietary SQL-statements. We are thinking of using the Java Persistence Application Programming Interface for this."
"We also know that we will have to change the encryption library. We are looking into switching to open source encryption libraries. These will certainly be just as secure."
BeschA has not yet decided, which open source licence will use. He added in this regard Kewitz added "Options include the GPL and the Open Government Licence used in the United Kingdom." The BeschA will work closely together with the competence centre of open source software located in the Federal Office of Administration.
The plan to make eVergabe available as open source was mentioned in a recent call for tender by BeschA for the future development of the software. That framework contract was worth €4 million and it was awarded to an IT firm based in Dortmund.
The development of eVergabe started in 2000.