UK Gov ICT – the future includes Finland (still not in a good way)

FSFE Finland is considering taking the Finnish government to Court to enforce the rules on procurement; among other things looking to enforce specifications based on functionalities and standards, rather than specific products or certain brands.

So first the Slovakian government is taken to Court because of a compulsory requirement to use Microsoft and now Finland also in the EU and again there are some interesting parallels for the way UK public sector ICT is procured.

As Open Forum Europe illustrate in their second study, published in february 2012 (pdf) poor procurement practice is quite widespread. When such practice is discovered FSFE writes to procuring authorities and offers a six point plan for improvement:

  • Define the procurement by functionalities and standards. Do not request specific products or require certain brands.
  • Procure for long enough periods, eg. 4 to 6 years, so that there is enough time to plan and execute a change of vendor. Buying new systems from the old vendor just because there is not time to migrate is normally not an acceptable excuse.
  • Base price comparison on the entire life span costs. Specifically include exit costs that arise at the end of the life span, when the vendor changes.
  • Make sure that the procured system is modular and adheres to Open Standards, so that there is always the option to change the vendor for a module or that completely new modules can be taken into use and that they can access the existing data.
  • Ensure unlimited right to modify the software and have it delivered as source code, so that there is independence from single vendors.
  • Favouring Free Software (also knows as “open source”) all the above are easy to fulfill.

The UK Government produces guidance covering similar territory not that you’d notice if you were looking at public sector procurements or the continuing prevarications over open standards (not forgetting market distortion through illegal State aid).

— Gerry Gavigan, Chair, 2 July 2012

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