Competition Authority: ‘Closed standards often problematic’
Public policy-makers in Sweden have limited insight on how IT projects can lead to IT vendor lock-in, a study conducted for the Swedish Competition Authority shows. “An overwhelming majority of the IT projects conducted by schools and public sector organisations refer to specific software without considering lock-in and different possible negative consequences”, the authors conclude.
“From a competition perspective it is often problematic when the public sector implements IT procurement and requires closed standards”, writes Dan Sjöblom, director general of the Swedish Competition Authority in his introduction to the study. “The result is often that a few dominant players benefit, while disadvantaging others, with the risk of pushing the smaller players out of the market.”
The study provides recommendations, to help public administrations avoid IT vendor lock-in. For example, public administrations can avoid lock-in by specifying requirements for software without making references to specific technologies, suppliers, brands and closed standards. Additionally, they can promote interoperability and long-term digital preservation, by using only open standards and open file formats.
The study by University of Skövde researchers Björn Lundell, Jonas Gamalielsson and Stefan Tengblad reviews how explicit and implicit requirements on the use of different types of IT standards have an impact on IT competition. “The focus has been on IT systems that schools provide to their pupils”, they write in the English summary of the study.
The researchers painstakingly analysed IT projects implemented in Swedish municipal primary and secondary schools in 20 municipalities, between the summer of 2015 and early 2016. Additionally, they studied the IT standards referenced by 20 ‘IT-intensive government agencies”, mostly those involved in Sweden’s eDelegation - an eGovernment expert group.