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Nov. 4, 2019

Participation software must be open source - a plea for democratic software

Open Source (OS) means "open source". What may sound strange at first is actually quite simple: With an open source license, the source code of software can be viewed, used and modified free of charge. OS software offers two major advantages over so-called closed source software or proprietary software: independence and synergies through collaboration. In our opinion, OS software should be a standard, especially for participation platforms that give citizens a say in socio-political issues.

Independent software development

The first advantage of OS Software is its independence from the vendors who develop the software. Because the source code of the software is public and thus theoretically accessible to everyone, another organization can use the OS software and develop it independently. Finally, it should be possible for a state or provincial government to change a provider without spending too much public money on it. OS software should be seen here as a lock that is continually being built on, rather than being torn down. The costs for a costly supplier change could be saved and invested in the further development of OS software instead. This is not only more resource-saving, but also more democratic. OS allows software to be built sustainably. This is the case, for example, in Barcelona. The city's policy there mainly relies on Free and OS Software, a full 70% of the city's budget for new developments flows into Free and OS Software. And the Digital Innovation Officer in Barcelona, Fransesca Bria, has already quite rightly recognized: "We must combine the digital revolution with a democratic revolution". It refers to the OS participation platform decidim, which focuses on the needs of Barcelona's citizens. OS Software is thus a security for the citizens for more democracy and more independence. Attention: in Berlin there is the participation platform meinBerlin, operated by us OS, to involve citizens in urban politics.

Synergy effects through collaboration

OS also allows software collaboration and thus generates synergy effects. The code of OS Software can be viewed, learned and reused. Consequently, learning is simplified by Open Source licenses. In contrast to this, mostly proprietary licenses prevent a collaboration with Closed Source Software as it takes place with OS Software. There, interested parties and developers or small local companies can work on the OS software. This not only improves it, but also makes it more secure. Linux is an example of this. The software dominates not only in the web server sector, but also in the smartphone market. Due to the copyleft license, collaborators are obliged to publish their changes to it. In this way, they improve very different actors such as individuals and companies, and the Linux development process remains open. This creates enormous synergy effects. Open Source is a sign for modern and future democracy. Ben Balter, who works for the online service GitHub, agrees:

"Open Source isn’t a fad, or a bunch of hippies out in California passing around tie-dye laptops like they would illicit substances. Open source is how modern organisations, and increasingly more traditional organisations build software."

Therefore our software Adhocracy is Open Source and is available under AGPL-License as free software with Copyleft. You would like to set up a participation platform and know a person or have programming knowledge in Python? Then you can find all further information about setting up Python here. An overview of the functions of Adhocracy can be found here.

If you have further questions, please feel free to contact Luca.
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