The gradual development of Open Source solutions across the IT communities in various European countries is still too confined within national borders.
At the Open World Forum in Paris on 3-5 October, debate centred on the development process of Open Source products, in the wider sense of the term, in Europe. Open source software, and also hardware, are now widely accepted, though not yet as the standard approach, nevertheless as a potential basis for companies to develop and innovate. However, the wider integration of the open approach is being held back by national frontiers. During a session entitled “Is there an Open (Source) Europe?”, speakers revealed that while Europeans are leaders in the development of Open Source technology, spearheaded by France and Spain among others, communication and ideas exchange between IT and tech companies across national borders is still astonishingly poor. The advantages of open solutions can only be fully exploited if they are indeed based on knowledge sharing – this is the whole point of being ‘open’, they underlined.
Showing a united front in the innovation field
Peter Ganten, Board Chairman of the Open Source Business Alliance and CEO of IT infrastructure operator and manager Univention, reminded the audience that the main contribution of Open Source technology is the fact that “if these technologies are made available to everyone, they enable anyone and everyone to innovate”. The open approach – which helps to dismantle market entry barriers by lowering the specific skills level required and reducing the cost of entry – offers potential to create strong momentum for innovation at both national level and Europe-wide. However, open solutions can only work if there is genuine interchange at European level, a fact which many companies have not yet fully accepted. Explained Ganten: “It has at last become possible to implement joint innovation and collaboration in Europe, both due to the dynamism of European entrepreneurs and, most of all due to the fact that English is now accepted in tech sectors as the primary working language.”
Opportunities and risks for Europe
Peter Ganten said he had noticed a definite increase in demand for Open Source solutions in Europe, stressing that the growing penetration of Cloud-based services also serves to strengthen the contribution made by open technologies. He argued that France and Germany ought now to be building a strong and efficient relationship in the IT and tech sectors, which has to-date been simply non-existent. And although the major national and supranational European players have an important role in the development of the Open Source approach, it is now time for tech entrepreneurs to bring about a culture change in their approach to innovation. There are great opportunities for Europe but if supranational policies to foster open innovation are not implemented, there is also a high risk that Europe will lose its leading position in this field, warned Ganten. And there is a lot at stake here, he reminded the audience, as “Open Source solutions will in many cases become the standard model, just as the Cloud is becoming the standard approach right now.”