The European Commission's ICT procurement practices are blocking "a very large number of European entrepreneurs", says MEP Amalia Andersdotter. On Sunday, she published her correspondence with EC Secretary-General Catherine Day about the EC's procurement practice for desktop operating systems and office productivity solutions. Andersdotter: "It is disappointing that the EU has such a bad strategy for digital services and IT systems."
The MEP wrote to the EC Secretary-General in January, requesting the EC to make sure that in its procurement actions it will treat all economic operators equally and without discrimination, arguing in favour of the use of free and open source solutions and open formats for documents and videos. The MEP is concerned about the lack of competition in this area. In May, the EC's proprietary licence contract for desktop operating systems and office solutions will expire. Andersdotter writes the EC should avoid IT vendor lock-in and should "protect the moral integrity of our institutions and the EU taxpayers money."
The EC Secretary-General replied nine days later, writing "I share your views as regards the need to award contracts through transparent procurement procedures guaranteeing open and fair competition between economic operators and avoiding vendor lock-in. This is also true in the area of software procurement."
The EC has reassessed its office automation strategy, the Secretary-General writes, resulting in three 'tracks'. First, to ensure business continuity, the EC will continue to rely on the same proprietary solutions that it currently uses. Second, the EC will also seek "positive disruption through alternative technologies, solutions and/or delivery models at different levels of the product stack, on a scale to be decided on a case-by-case basis." The third track is "aimed at preparing the ground for the next call for tenders for the office automation platform, which will be carried out in full service mode and will therefore be product-independent."
The response by the EC Secretary-General includes a document 'Future Office Automation Environment: Next Steps', providing details on these three steps. The document admits that the European institutions are in 'effective captivity', locked into the solutions of a single proprietary IT vendor. It points out that alternatives have "severe limitations both in terms of functionalities (for example multilingualism) and as regards (the lack of) support and service."
MEP Andersdotter published all the documents on her website, commenting: "European entrepreneurs are kept outside of contracts because of bad foresight by the public sector and a lack of political support for sustainable digital services in the EU. We should stop wasting public funds on ICT solutions that ultimately don't serve our interests."