SPRI Group, the Basque Government Business Development Agency, is committed to Open Source as a key piece in the digital transformation of Basque industry. It is for good reason that it is one of the collaborating institutions of LIBRECON powered by CEBIT.
Aitor Cobanera, the entity’s Technology director, explains the level of penetration of these Open Source technologies in Euskadi, the challenges they present for the industrial sector and the role of the public institutions as promoters of their implementation.
What competitive advantages does open source provide to the industrial sector?
More and more companies, initiatives and innovative projects based on Open Source are developed in industrial sectors thanks to their own initiative or the large communities that support the projects with these technology projects, promoted either by a collaborative common interest or a purely business reason.
As the advantages of the Open Source in the industrial environment, what stands out, in addition to their proven quality and competitiveness in many areas, is the flexibility, agility, speed, development cost savings, customization that it provides, and the possibility of starting its application with small-scale tests without committing large resources in the company.
What factors drive the choice of free software by the companies?
At present, the factors that drive the choice of free software are, in this order: the quality of solutions, competitiveness and technical capacity, the possibility of customization and its security. At the same time, the companies state that Open Source provides them with efficiency in performance and processes, increased interoperability with internal and external systems and, above all, greater innovation.
In the past, the companies considered free software projects as if they were scientific experiments so they had virtually no support or were relegated to the field of experimentation. On the contrary, it is now common to have one or more companies that offer support in open code projects, allowing companies not only to obtain the same level of service previously reserved for proprietary commercial software, but also to benefit from the vibrant communities that generally surround successful open code projects.
What role do open code technologies play in the digital transformation of companies?
Open technologies and free software have been one of the most important disruptive innovations in the ICT sector in recent years. Open code software is becoming an increasingly common way for companies to perform a successful digital transition. In this regard, Open Source can be considered as an engine of digital transformation because it allows a rapid prototyping without investing too many company resources.
In the business sphere, Digital Transformation with Open Source is a team effort that also prepares companies for change thanks to the freedom for the choice and design of tools, software and/or equipment, which is possible using Open Source. In addition, by its very nature, it enhances the development of joint projects between companies.
It is a technology that is always up to date, and is often more innovative and with future vision than other types of solutions, because it allows for expert eyes on the code and basic technology. For this reason, it also ensures that security gaps are discovered and closed quickly, thanks to revision, test, and agile development methodologies used in Open Source.
For SPRI, are the open technologies strategic for the future of industry? In what way?
In SPRI, we share the belief that open technologies are strategic for the future of Basque industry. Today we can state that these technologies play a fundamental role in the development of many of the technologies associated with the Industry 4.0. In fact, a report was published in Germany several months ago that reflects this new situation called ‘Open Source for Industry 4.0’, a white book that includes the opportunities that open for industry in the use of open source technologies in a country like Germany, where industry plays a tractor role, as happens in Euskadi.
What is the level of implementation of Open Source in Basque industry?
It is difficult to quantify the level of implementation of Open Source in Basque industry, although it can be concluded that this is an increasing trend taking into account growth data from both the sector and the market shares of Open Source solutions in industry.
To gain an idea of this, the companies integrated in the Euskadi Free Technology and Open Knowledge Business Association (ESLE) have increased by 20 times their jobs over the past ten years, thanks to the incorporation of new partners and the generation of qualified jobs. On the other hand, there are estimates that place Open Source in more than 60% of the solutions that are introduced by Basque EICT technology providers (Electronic, Information and Communications Technologies) in the companies.
However, Basque industry can and must take further advantage of the opportunities open to it in the areas of innovation and competitiveness improvement, by participating directly and promoting Open Source projects.
What are the most frequent problems that are detected in introducing these technologies and what type of solution is being worked on?
The digital disruption in which all sectors, including industrial, are involved, is affecting the companies’ strategy because, among other aspects, it creates new opportunities or facilitates innovation and entrepreneurship in organizations. In addition to this., the borders, of whatever type they are, tend to disappear or be diffused while creating new challenges for companies. In this regard, it is important to understand the strategic component that Open Source provides.
The strategy, and not only technology, directs the digital transformation of the company. The ability to digitally reimagine the business is largely determined by a clear strategy, supported by the company’s leaders, where a change culture is promoted that can be supported and encouraged in the adoption of Open Source technologies.
At the practical and operational level it is important to find appropriate long-term collaboration and appropriate Open Source technology. Some features may be identified in areas such as the existence of a roadmap in the adopted project, community dynamism, governance model or functionality, and assessed on the basis of indicators such as documentation, version management, the performance of tests, development methodology, type of license, internationalization of the application or references, for example.
What role do the Basque institutions (SPRI) play in the dissemination of the importance of implementing Open Source in companies? Actions and programmes that are being developed.
From the Basque Government there are a number of initiatives included in the Euskadi 2020 Digital Agenda. This plan covers more than 63 actions in the areas of citizenship, administration, companies and telecommunications infrastructure supported largely by Open Source technologies.
Another of the programmes which supports many EICT incorporation projects is Industria Digitala, for the digitisation of SMEs using Open Source technologies.
The use of Open Source technologies is also recurrent in over 270 awareness and training activities promoted annually by the Enpresa Digitala centres that are attended by more than 9,000 people.
What should a company interested in applying Open Source in its business do or where should it go?
At SPRI we understand that a company that is interested in applying Open Source technologies in its business model could approach entities such as ESL, the Euskadi Free Software Companies Association, or any of the companies that make it up. It is important to rely on the appropriate partner to ensure that the transformation, migration or entrepreneurship of new projects is done without problems. ESLE is open to collaboration with the industrial sector, and the result is the collaborations of companies of the association with a large number of industrial companies.