On Thursday 25 September, OpenForum Europe presented Policy Recommendations for improving the policy environment for SMEs to succeed with Free and Open Source Software. The presentation was preceded by a keynote from André Richier, Principal Policy Officer at the European Commission, who introduced the Commission’s Skills Agenda. Following this a panel with representatives from Academia, SMEs and European FOSS businesses discussed necessary steps.
Many European SMEs struggle to digitise their business because they lack the necessary skills. At the same time SMEs are the economic lifeblood of most regions in Europe. Digital Skills have a decisive impact on the economic development and the European Commission has recognised this fact by making digital skills one of the five pillars of the Digital Europe programme. At the same time, Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) has become ubiquitous in the business world. Yet, the European Union is not exploiting the potential of FOSS for its SMEs and the economy. To close the skills gap, the FOSS4SMEs consortium has developed a free digital learning course, guiding SMEs to make strategic use of FOSS.
A study by Frank Nagle of Harvard Business School recently analysed the benefits of France introducing policies support FOSS and found these policies resulted in a yearly increase of 7%-14% of IT jobs and increase 9%-18% in the number of IT-related startups.
This is why the FOSS4SMEs consortium decided to explore how Europe and its SMEs can benefit from FOSS by adjusting public policy. We have drafted policy recommendations on how the European Union can support SMEs using FOSS and we are grateful that the discussion during the event supported the timeliness of these recommendations.