Public administrations should avoid being locked in by IT vendors, European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes said last week Thursday. "This is a waste of public money that public bodies can no longer afford."
"Many authorities have found themselves unintentionally locked into proprietary technology for decades. After a certain point that original choice becomes so ingrained that alternatives risk being systematically ignored, no matter what the potential benefits", Kroes said on Thursday a conference in Brussels organised by Open Forum Europe, a trade group on open source and open standards.
The Commissioner added that such vendor dependence is even worse when it forces citizens to buy proprietary software solutions. She calls on citizens to alert her if governments are making public services dependent on proprietary software. "This could be your kid's school insisting on the use of a specific word processing system or your tax department's online forms requiring a specific web browser. If you have other concrete examples you can share don't hesitate to send them to me."
Kroes also warned the EC wants to make sure that significant market players cannot just choose to deny interoperability with their product. "You no doubt remember that I have some experience with reticent high-tech companies: I had to fight hard and for several years until Microsoft began to license missing interoperability information. Complex anti-trust investigations followed by court proceedings are perhaps not the only way to increase interoperability. The Commission should not need to run an epic antitrust case every time software lacks interoperability. Come on, be reasonable."
One of the possible options could be a European law, Kroes said. "That could have a profound impact on the industry."
On open standards, the Commissioner explained she is in favour of those that come with the least constraints. "The answer is obvious. (..) everybody who cares about interoperability should care about the financial conditions for the use of standards as well as the indirect constraints imposed on third parties: the fewer constraints the better."
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