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Java, Standards, and Free Software in Europe

Bridging the digital divide

In the May issue of JDJ, I wrote about Java and free software in Brazil. This month, after some recent visits to Europe (to Antwerp for JavaPolis late last year, to London for the QCon conference in March, and to Paris for a JCP Executive Committee meeting in May), it seems logical to follow up with an article about Java in Europe.

Government, Open Source, and Open Standards
Government intervention and direction has long been critical to the development of the computer industry. The Internet, after all, was derived from the ARPANET, developed in the early 1970s from a U.S. government-sponsored research project by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (see The Role of Government in the Evolution of the Internet. Today local, national, and supranational governments from Latin America to the United States to Europe continue to influence the development of our industry.

Just as Brazil has a prominent "Software Livre" movement that advocates the use of free and open software to bridge the "digital divide", in Europe too Software Libre is an important influence. This is not only because it can help to ensure that all citizens have access to information (as members of a United Nations think-tank based in the Netherlands recently argued), but also because of the European Union's need to integrate and synchronize data processing and the provision of services through software across 27 member states. In 2004, the eGovernment Services organization of the EU published a document entitled the European Interoperability Framework, which states that in order to "attain interoperability in the context of pan-European eGovernment services," software should be "based on open standards and encourage the use of open source software." Open Standards are recommended because they promote interoperability, while Open Source Software (OSS) products complement and support Open Standards, since they are "by their nature, publicly available specifications, and the availability of their source code promotes open, democratic debate around the specifications, making them both more robust and interoperable."

More Stories By Patrick Curran

Patrick Curran is chair of the JCP and director of the JCP Program at Sun Microsystems, Inc.

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