Cablegate: Iraq Rebuilt With Free/Open Source Software

Posted in Cablegate, Free/Libre Software at 7:57 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz


Summary: Folks from MIT (home of the FSF/GNU) were said to be using “open-source software” for an “Intranet [that] would rely on radio and satellite data links to avoid dependence on Iraq’s telecom system” and more

“Gatti said MIT plans to set up the system using open-source software,” claims the following Cablegate cable, which speaks about setting up some communication infrastructure for post-invasion Iraq. Here is the full cable:

C O N F I D E N T I A L  ROME 002050 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/22/2014 
TAGS: EAID [Foreign Economic Assistance], EINT [Economic and Commercial Internet], PREL [External Political Relations], IT [Italy], IZ [Iraq], IRAQI FREEDOM 
Classified By: Economic Minister-Counselor Scott Kilner 
for reasons 1.4 (b)(d) 
¶1. (C) Italy's Ministry of Innovation and Technology (MIT) is 
ready to send a team to Baghdad to start work on a Euro 11 
million project to build an Intranet system for the Iraqi 
government.  According to an aide to MIT Minister Lucio 
Stanca, however, the Italian Foreign Ministry will not 
approve the trip because of security concerns.  The completed 
system would link 20-30 Iraqi government departments to each 
other and the Internet using a mix of radio and satellite 
links.  End summary. 
Safety Concerns Delay E-Government Project. 
¶2. (C) Stefano Gatti (protect), Diplomatic Advisor to 
Innovation and Technology Minister Lucio Stanca, recently 
gave Econoff an update of Italy's Euro 10-11 million project 
to provide the Iraqi government with a basic Intranet 
infrastructure.  The MIT has a team ready to go to Baghdad to 
conduct an initial survey of the Iraqi Ministries' 
requirements; but, Gatti explained with some exasperation, 
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) is delaying approval of 
the trip.  Gatti speculated that the MFA was nervous about 
sending additional Italian officials to Baghdad given the 
unresolved status of three Italian hostages, the death this 
month of an Italian soldier in Nasiriyah, and the 
assassination of Interim Governing Council President Ezzedine 
Salim outside the Green Zone.  In this environment, Gatti 
said, the GOI is reluctant to send more people to Baghdad. 
Gatti said the MIT has pared down the team from eight to four 
people in deference to the MFA's security concerns, but the 
MFA is still withholding approval. 
Need for Iraqi Coordinator 
¶3. (SBU) A second problem the project has encountered, Gatti 
remarked, is finding an Iraqi agency to coordinate with the 
MIT team.  He explained that, since the project involves 
hooking up several Iraqi ministries to a central Intranet 
hub, Italy must find an Iraqi authority capable of overseeing 
such a government-wide project.  Gatti predicted, however, 
that this problem would be overcome once the Ministry has its 
own people on the ground in Baghdad. 
¶4. (SBU) MIT's proposed Euro 10-11 million Iraqi Government 
Intranet project is designed to give the Iraqi government a 
basic system for electronically linking ministries and, 
possibly, municipal and provincial governments.  The initial 
budget covers the cost of a central server bank, connections 
for 20-30 government departments (each with 20 work 
stations), a remote back-up system (possibly located in 
Italy), plus training and technical support.  The Iraqi 
Intranet would rely on radio and satellite data links to 
avoid dependence on Iraq's telecom system.  In addition to 
providing Iraqi officials with basic email and Internet 
connectivity, the Intranet network could also be used for 
telephone service among government departments.  Gatti said 
MIT plans to set up the system using open-source software. 
(Note: A copy of Italy's proposal for the Iraqi Government 
Intranet is available on Rome's Classnet homepage under the 
section "Italy Background Notes."  Please do not distribute 
this document outside the USG.  End note.) 
Start-up Funding Available from MFA and World Bank 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
¶5. (SBU) Gatti said the MFA already has Euro two million 
available to start the project.  The MIT expects to receive 
another Euro two million from the World Bank's Development 
Gateway Foundation, he said.  The MIT, Gatti asserted, is 
ready to start the project even though it has yet to secure 
the full Euro 10-11 million in funding.  Gatti predicted the 
additional money would fall into place once the project got 
underway.  (Note: The GOI is counting this project as part of 
its Euro 200 million Madrid pledge. End note.) 
¶6. (C) The delay in sending the MIT team to Baghdad 
demonstrates how the continuing Italian hostage ordeal and 
recent violence around Nasiriyah is creating government 
nervousness with negative consequences for reconstruction 
work.  However, assuming the security situation stabilizes 
and there are no more high-profile attacks or kidnappings 
that target Italians, we expect that the MIT team will be 
cleared to go to Baghdad in coming weeks. 
Visit Rome's Classified Website: 
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/rome/index.cf m 
        2004ROME02050 - Classification: CONFIDENTIAL

It is possible that a lot of systems were built with proprietary systems (contractors helping other contractors), but the above is noteworthy nonetheless.

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