The Venezuelan Parliament is going to start discussing the draft legislation called “Ley de Infogobierno”, which will overhaul e-government and software procurement in the Venezuelan public sector. Although I am often sceptical about Chavez and his Venezuelan project, some aspects of the legislation are rather interesting. Here are some highlights.
- Open standards: As far as I know, this is the first time that open standards are made into law. The draft sets various principles, which include openness, standardisation, interoperability and transparency. Proprietary principles are out.
- Technological neutrality: The act encourages something called “progressive interpretation” of the law, which will encourage courts to interpret existing legislation in light of new technological development. This sets a standard of technological neutrality rarely found in Civil Law jurisdictions.
- Farewell paper: Information technologies will be the preferred for all of the archiving operations performed by the State, but this will be in keeping with cultural sensibilities.
- Technological sovereignty: As far as I can tell, the act establishes a policy of encouraging research and development to ensure a certain level of national technological autonomy. Venezuelan resources and expertise will be favoured wherever possible. Expensive foreign consultants are out.
- Free Software: the government will “guarantee” that the software it uses fulfils several conditions. These include value added, the right to access the software’s source code, freedom to use, freedom to modify and freedom to distribute modifications. Intriguingly enough, government software cannot have undisclosed access paths. Could this be the first legal rootkit prohibition?
Will embedding free software into legislation facilitate open source principles? I do not think so. Free and Open Source are organic phenomena, top-down approaches do not work well. Still, Venezuela seems to be at the forefront of “progressive” politics again. I think that this legislation goes further than anything Brazil has.