Dutch coalition agreement: where’s the trust in Free Software?

The new Dutch government, consisting of liberal-conservatives (VVD), christian democrats (CDA), democrats (D66) and orthodox protestants (CU), published the new coalition agreement: Vertrouwen in de toekomst (“Trust in the future”). I searched through all sections of this document, searching for the word “software”.

According to the new government, software is a matter for the justice department. Software is not mentioned in any other section, including the economic, education, labor policy, innovation policy and living environment sections.

So it’s the minister of justice who deals with software. Software is mentioned at two places in the justice section:

  • The making of a cybersecurity agenda, including the stimulation of companies to make software safer through software liability.
  • Buying hacksoftware for the Dutch intelligence service.

This means software is being seen as:

  • Unsafe, and the state will ensure it’s going to be safer.
  • A tool to further build the Dutch surveillance and control state.

There’s a world of possibilities to use (existing!) Free Software to strengthen the economy, provide the youth with real education and turn the Netherlands into a more innovative and livable part of Europe. Apparently this is not a priority. Where’s the trust in Free Software?

Why we convinced a Dutch government agency to use an Open Document format

When it comes to the use of Open Document formats in the public administration of the Netherlands there is no law. There is the “apply or explain”-rule which among other things means that a public administration has to use Open Standards unless they specifically explain why they can’t. As this rule has no teeth, all you can do is to politely ask a civil servant to use Open Standards.

Which we did. The Antenna Office, part of the Telecom Agency, regularly publishes a document with all legal antenna systems in the country. They did this in a proprietary spreadsheet document format. After a tip from Kevin Keijzer, I politely requested them to change this. I got a fast reaction, stating that after receiving several similar requests, they decided now to change to .ods immediately with their next publication.

More information on Open Document formats is on the Document Freedom Day website.