Open Source in e-Government: case studies, conjecture and news stories

COVID19 contact tracing apps: a call for open source

A comment by Julian Kunkel, Simon Worthington, Jeremy Bennett, Andy Bennett

Governments worldwide are developing smartphone apps that track the location and movement profile of citizens in order to quickly identify contact persons of COVID-19 infections. According to The Financial Times, if even 40% of smartphone users install such an application, the infection levels would be significantly reduced in the UK. Therefore, the widespread usage of such an application is an important instrument in the current crisis.

How could such a smartphone app work? In a nutshell, a device can scan other nearby devices and exchange device IDs, for example, using Bluetooth. This information then needs to be stored with a timestamp. If the owner of a device contracts the virus, s/he could indicate this fact in the app allowing to associate the own device ID with the information that s/he may have infected others. This data then needs to be recorded on a server to allow the app of other users to query the register and then compare any contact information with the register of COVID-19 victims.


Archived mailing lists

As part of the migration from Plone to WordPress and related pieces of software, the old mailing lists have been extracted from Plone and archived. Hereafter, mailing lists will be organised as follows:

This list is used for discussing committee business. The archives are open but only committee members may join the list.
This is a low-traffic list used for OSSG event announcements. Posting is restricted to committee members.
A members discussion list, though we would prefer members to discuss issues using the blog comment pages.

The old mailing list archives may be found here:

Committee Forum
Committee discussion
Discussion of issues surround business and open source.
Member Forum
Member event announcements
Licensing discussion
eGovernment and Open Source
Discussion of Open Source in eGovernment
Knowledge Management and Open Source
Using open source for knowledge management
Agile Methods and Open Source
Relationship between Agile Methods and Open Source
Legal Issues surrounding Open Source
Discussion of legal issues involvng Open Source
Accessibility and Open Source
Discussion of Accessiblity in Open Source
Education and Open Source
Use of Open Source in Education

Apologies for any duplicate messages etc. The archives were produced by screen-scraping the old Plone site. Not ideal.

Open Source and eGovernment 3

Is anyone else totally frustrated trying to deal with the Government electronically if you DON’T use Internet Explorer? I run my own small business and for 4 years, successfully used NetScape 4 and a digital certificate to access Government email, VAT, PAYE and Corporation Tax. Gradually the applications have stopped working under NetScape 4 (reasonably enough) but the ONLY browser supported with Digital Certificates is Internet Explorer.

Our company’s security policy prohibits IE – too insecure, too many patches and anyway we now run Linux on the Desktop. Some eGovernment applications have some support for Open Source browsers but not with digital certificates.

I have spent countless hours talking to eGovernment helpdesks with bug reports and screenshots. Eventually they all gradually fade away, especially if you ask about strategy with regard to supporting open source browsers. Didn’t this government have a splash in the press last October about supporting open source?

The argument is always “it’s not worth supporting open source because no-one uses it”. Self fulfilling prophecy! The Government should be leading the way on Open Source, not prohibiting it.

Does anyone have access to the office of Ian Watmore, head of eGovernment?? I tried writing to the CEO of the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) but other than a secretarial response saying it had been passed on, I’ve had no reply.

Jane Curry

Socitm Open Source Software Group

Kate Mountain has asked me to send you details about SOSS (Socitm Open Source Software) Group which has been running for the last 2 years. There are details on the website at http://www.socitm.gov.uk/Public/SIAG/open+source.htm
I am also attaching the minutes from the last meeting (for you as a Socitm Member).
I have also circulated SOSS members with details of your meeting.
If you need any more information then please get in touch.

Bob Griffith