December 20, 2005

HOSP promotes open source in the Netherlands

Author: Koen Vervloesem

The Holland Open Software Platform (HOSP) wants to bring users, firms, and open source projects in contact with each other. The organisation, which runs an open source conference in the Netherlands, says it will soon take a more proactive role to support and promote open source.

Officially founded last summer, HOSP has the goal of bringing together all existing initiatives around open source software, open content, and open standards in the Netherlands. More specifically, HOSP has chosen these four goals:
1. Advocate open standards in information technology, promote open information processing, and stimulate open source software;
2. Look after the interests of organisations, corporations, persons, and communities that have this same goal;
3. Bring together diverse local and national initiatives and give them a forum for knowledge exchange;
4. Serve as contact point for similar initiatives in other countries.

The new HOSP initiative builds on past accomplishments. In May 2005, the Holland Open foundation hosted the three-day international Holland Open Software Conference, which attracted around 450 visitors. The programme was aimed at developers, managers, and users. "We want to bring together different cultures for whom open source is important: the industry, government, users, and the open source community," says Rob Peters of HOSP. His colleague Leon Gommans adds, "Because we mix these different target groups, it's not a regular conference. People get to know other folks of a different group in a casual way and get some interesting ideas by the different points of view they encounter."

Next year's conference, scheduled for June 15, will have largely the same purpose, Peters says, but "one difference will be more emphasis on the community and the programmers. International cooperation between developers gets more and more important." Therefore, HOSP will schedule the Saturday of the next conference for enabling cooperation between developers. Gommans says, "Open source developers can exchange knowledge that day and even program together. This is the way innovation works and we want to promote that."

HOSP is holding an inquiry to hear which activities people are interested in. Apart from the general goals, Jo Lahaye, chairman of HOSP, adds some specific activities the foundation wants to begin. "We should set up a common agenda and common mailing lists for the existing open source initiatives in the Netherlands. We will keep organizing the Holland Open Software Conference annually, but we want to organize also some thematic conferences, about licenses, patents, and products."

HOSP wants to disseminate information about open source in many ways. "Our Web site, mailing lists, conferences, and courses are all means to advocate open source software and open standards," Lahaye says. "Eventually, we want to collect best practices, example projects, and papers as guidance material. All this should improve confidence in open source software and open standards."

Lahaye stresses HOSP doesn't want to "take over" existing initiatives. "We want to strengthen these initiatives by offering a central collection of current, starting, and completed projects. Nowadays too many projects don't know about each other. If they can learn about each other, they can work together and become stronger."

In its own initiatives, HOSP wants to stress the advantages of open information technology for the Dutch society. Lahaye says, "We will mainly focus on local knowledge acquisition of open software systems and development methods, and on digital durability of processed and stored information. Above all, we want to stress that information has to be transparent in education, science, and government."

As an advising organisation, HOSP doesn't take an explicit position concerning solutions. "We will never say, 'Always use open source software,'" Lahaye says. "We will give arguments for a solution in its context, but we will never show preference for a specific application, supplier, or platform."

Innovation out of openness

In HOSP's view, information and communication technology is an enabler for innovation. Lahaye says, "Without ICT there's no innovation. But you have to keep control over ICT development, otherwise you become dependent on external suppliers for all production processes. You can't control processes with increasing complexity then. To have control on your own software, open standards, open content and open source software are important."

"Currently other disciplines are adopting the practices of open source communities, as in open research, open education, and open content (Creative Commons). Powerful communities can arise here functioning as a motor for our knowledge economy. HOSP wants to facilitate the new business models needed for these communities or created by them and to spread knowledge about these innovations."


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