Can the German administration become more independent of individual providers and thus more digitally sovereign through open source software (OSS)? This question was the focus of the “Behörden Spiegel”* web panel “Digital Sovereignty”. mgm CEO Hamarz Mehmanesh gave the keynote speech. There was also a presentation of the planned Centre for Digital Sovereignty (ZenDiS) and a discussion round with representatives of the federal government, the state, local authorities and an open source trade association.
At the Digital Sovereignty theme day, Hamarz Mehmanesh immediately expressed a specific wish: “Please standardise the interface for messengers!” With this, the CEO of mgm in his keynote speech at the “Behörden Spiegel” web panel directly addressed his previous speaker Andreas Reckert-Lodde, the head of the project group to found the Centre for Digital Sovereignty, or “ZenDiS” for short. This pursues three goals: The ability to change, the ability to shape and the influence on providers in the digitalisation of the administration. This can be realised, among other things, with solutions from the open source ecosystem, according to Reckert-Lodde. One example he gave was that all authorities should use an identical messenger and not each develop their own – and received the approval of Hamarz Mehmanesh.
As a representative of a technology and solution provider, he was concerned with more than just a uniform messenger. Open source solutions are important, especially for system software. But they should fulfil certain requirements: The customer benefit must be given, for example by reducing the effort and increasing the speed of implementation. And a viable and sustainable business model is necessary. Especially with complex applications and platforms, the contribution of the developer community is often manageable, Hamarz Mehmanesh said. The balance between investment and benefit of an open source solution is not always balanced. This also has an impact on the effort that has to be put into the security of an application. “We only use open source if the benefits for the customer and us can be increased. That is why I plead for a differentiated view on this topic,” Mehmanesh summarised his point of view.
Lively interest in the topics of digital sovereignty and open source
More than 250 participants watched the theme day via various channels, and questions could be asked in the chat of the official event tool. The topic “Digital Sovereignty” referred to the increasing digitalisation and the associated dependence on individual information and communication technologies – also in public administration.
In order to eliminate dependencies on non-European providers and to ensure sovereign action, the diversification and creation of suitable software and hardware solutions is necessary, according to the starting thesis of the discussion. In addition to Uwe Proll, editor-in-chief and publisher of “Behörden Spiegel”, the following were also present via video conference: Jan Pörksen (State Councillor, Hamburg), Dr. Sven Egyedy (Federal Foreign Office), Peter Ganten (Open Source Business Alliance), Anita Krellmann (KGSt) and Dr. Gerhard Schabhüser (BSI)*.
Discuss open source “free of dogma” and “do not exaggerate the debate”
The war in Ukraine and the possible threat of cyberattacks were clear evidence for all participants of how important the aspect of security is in achieving digital sovereignty. Therefore, the topic must be discussed “free of dogma”, said Sven Egyedy, and should not revolve solely around open source. It is important that the solutions are easy to use and thus have a high level of acceptance. The other participants in the discussion also agreed, with Peter Ganten, representing the open source companies, emphasising that only open source solutions would offer a good control capability. For his industry, the coalition agreement of the governing parties was very positive.
However, the traffic light agreement does not mean an imperative for open source, Jan Pörksen objected as a representative of politics. One is open to open source solutions, he said – but: “We should not exaggerate the debate, but must consider what is important to us and what starting points we have to reduce dependencies and secure performance.”
The webpanel also agreed that a connector like ZenDis was a good approach to a joint approach to find the right applications and providers.
A recording of the two-hour event is available on mgm’s YouTube channel (in German).
*”Behörden Spiegel” is the independent newspaper with the highest circulation for the public sector in Germany. The editorial team regularly organises discussions and webinars on the topics of digital administration, digital society and digital sovereignty on the platform www.digitaler-staat.online.