EC Scuppers Software Strategy

Filed under: Local Government,Strategy,Technology — lenand @ 10:45 pm

Both the previous and current governments have voiced approval of, too strong to say championed, open source software. Most open source software is free to download and use. Huge amounts have been spent on proprietary licence fees when joint, open source, development for central and local government systems could have been more cost efficient.  I only say “could” because the amount of saving has been contested, largely because of the costs of supporting and sustaining software.  Open source is no silver bullet for reducing ICT software costs.

Open source not only has to struggle against internal scepticism, but the pressures of big suppliers.  Virtual monopolies have been set up in some areas, such as PC desktop software and school management information systems.  Their business plan includes protecting income from the public sector.  I would do the same in their position.

What surprised me was Mark Ballard’s blog in Computer Weekly “Procurement perversities stifle Bristol’s IT ” The gist of it is that EC procurement rules in practice favour monopolistic and large suppliers above open source.   A couple of quotes:

“Mark Wright, the Bristol councillor campaigning to free the market from beneath Microsoft’s fat belly, has been told he has to refer to the tender in council meetings as one for “Microsoft Windows or an equivalent alternative”. “It’s nuts,” he says. “There is no alternative.””

“Neither can Bristol issue tenders specifying software made by local firms. It would break those bizarre European rules. Wright says the council could get round the problem by breaking its contracts up. If they were small enough, only local firms would bid for them. The council is finding, however, that since so few dominant software companies use proprietary standards, it can’t easily break its IT systems and services down into modular components amenable to local firms.”

Surely some clever lawyers can find the wording in specifications that allows Open Source suppliers to tender with a reasonable chance of success against the behemoths.


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