When we think of the administration in Germany in the context of digitalization, we often hear terms like “slow”, “outdated”, “backward” or “analog”. In comparison to other European countries, the administration is not up to date, has to catch up, act faster and finally become more digital. However, our public administration is in many areas no longer as dusty as its image suggests, but it is already very modern.
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Digital Sovereignty in the Public Sector
In Germany, digital sovereignty plays for good reasons a particularly important role in digitalization. This is demonstrated, among other examples, by the development of the German administration’s cloud strategy or the lighthouse project “Center for Digital Sovereignty of Public Administration” (ZenDiS). The publicy available documents on this projects describes exactly the reasons Open Source strategy is being used.
If you are interested, you can learn more about this in Andreas Reckert-Lodde’s keynote (in German) at Univention Summit 2022. No less exciting is “Open CoDE”, the open source platform of the public administration, on which anyone can register and follow what is currently happening in the administration in matter of Open Source. Nevertheless, the highlight of digital sovereignty in public administration is and remains the sovereign workplace.
The Sovereign Workplace
A modern Open Source Software (OSS)-based workplace for public administration – that is exactly what the Sovereign Workplace is. OSS is needed to enable organizations or individuals to securely determine who can access their own data, under what conditions, with what software and for what purpose (see OSBA definition).
Despite this, there are still a lot of prejudices that persist. OSS is “fiddly”, not visually appealing and less efficient than proprietary software. Moreover, there is a general resistance to change, large or small, in the workplace, which is just as challenging as the skepticism about OSS that some still have to overcome.
The Sovereign Workplace should be visually appealing, highly integrated, reliable, and “as if made from one piece”. Such expectations can be met if the existing progress in public administration (modern, digital) and the use of proven OSS are taken into account. The German Federal Ministry of the Interior (Bundesministerium des Innern, BMI) has set the framework for this, including that all components must be open source, barrier-free, conform to the basic protection, and published on OpenCoDE.
In addition, each component of the Sovereign Workplace must be interchangeable to avoid vendor lock-in (barriers that make it difficult for customers to switch to another vendor or product).