Vlora: Open formats, data and online services for the Balkans

The conference “Free Software in Balkans” was born as a meeting of the free software users, developers and supporters in the Balkan countries, in order to gather professionals, academics and enthusiasts who share the vision that software should be free and open for the community to develop and customize to its needs, and that knowledge is a communal property and free and open to everyone. I participated to the first edition in Vlora, Albania, with the talk described below, and reported what I learned in that and my other 2010 visits to Albania and Kosovo in these two posts:

My talk: How open formats, open data and open online services can make governments more effective, cost less and stimulate the local economy

Abstract (slides below):

Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) can greatly improve the social, economical and cultural conditions of every community. In this context, Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) is very interesting because it makes always possible and legal to build software products and services at the lowest possible long-term cost.

FOSS, however, often presents a risk that can create frustration and even make some development projects fail. This happens when FOSS is considered a goal in and by itself, that is when there is the expectation is that, if you first replace with FOSS some piece of proprietary software everything will go well without any further effort.

This talk suggests with practical examples that, when it comes to using software in Public Administrations, much bigger economical and social benefits can be achieved by optimizing some workplace procedures and by adopting open file formats and open policies for publication and reuse of public sector data. By focusing, above all, on workplace organization, data formats and data access it is possible to build public services that are much more efficient and cheaper.

The talk also suggests that the same approach can stimulate the economy better than simple adoption of FOSS, creating demand and possibilities to succeed for many more qualified jobs of a nature that is more difficult to outsorce to other countries. Finally, this approach is more likely to create environments where FOSS is the natural solution for more ICT problems and can be used without limitations.