Towards Digital Sovereignty

German government wants to reduce its IT vendor lock-in

22/09/2019

The German federal government is taking action to reduce IT vendor lock in, the Interior Ministry announced on Thursday. “To ensure our digital sovereignty, we want to reduce dependencies on individual IT providers,” a press release quotes Minister Horst Seehofer as saying.

Germany wants to take back control over its IT, the announcement shows, by changing procurement requirements and specifically selecting software solutions and suppliers. “The use of open source software will play an important role in this.”

The ministry says it will begin pilots with alternative software solutions, in cooperation with the country’s states the and the EU.

Currently, Federal public services heavily rely on a handful of commodity commercial software products. This results in additional dependencies and creates risks for digital sovereignty. The increasing focus on cloud-based solutions further complicates this, the ministry writes.

The image shows Figure 2 from the study for the BMI, an arrow diagrame recommending the government pays attention to the ‘pain points’ of IT vendor lock-in
Figure 2 from a study for the BMI that recommends paying attention to the ‘pain points’ of IT vendor lock-in.

The ministry’s concerns are reflected in a study commissioned by the ministry. The report highlights data privacy risks such as software solutions transmitting telemetry, and problematic international legislation.

According to the ‘Strategische Marktanalyse zur Reduzierung von Abhängigkeiten von einzelnen Software-Anbietern’ (Strategic market analysis to reduce dependencies on individual software providers) the market favours a few software vendors whose technology strategies will increase lock in. Risks include the continuous expansion of their digital ecosystem, the shift from on-premise to cloud computing, and increased engagement of these companies in open source software development.

The study points out that there are alternatives available – proprietary as well as open source. The authors recommend that when taking decisions on IT systems, the government takes into account loss of control, privacy and legal risks, reduced flexibility and reduced capability to innovate.

More information

Press release from the German Interior Ministry (in German)
Study commissioned by the Ministry (PDF, in German)
Heise news item (in German)
Spiegel news item (in German)
ZDnet news item (in French)
Register news item

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