To address open source and open standards knowledge gaps
The Dutch government should set up a resource centre on free software and open standards, says Member of Parliament Astrid Oosenbrug. “There is a serious lack of understanding of these two topics in the government”, the MP says. The centre should remedy this, and Ms Oosenbrug has started studying possibilities and options.
The Dutch MP is concerned about the limited grasp of open source displayed by the country’s Minister for the Central Government Sector, Stef Blok. On 7 April, in a discussion with members of parliament, the minister argued that changing to open source alternatives to proprietary software would lock the government in to service providers, instead of software vendors.
“Unfortunately, the minister is not the only one that misunderstands this”, Oosenbrug wrote in a text message to the Open Source Observatory (OSOR).
Last week, she grilled the minister on a report written for the ministry on IT vendor lock-in. Oosenbrug criticised the report, noting that the writers had not consulted any open source specialists. She pointed to the PhD research on the influence of open standards and open source on public procurement, conducted by Mathieu Paapst, a researcher and teacher at the University of Groningen.
Shades of dependence
“You have to wonder if the writers of that study did their homework properly”, Paapst comments in an email. He agrees with Oosenbrug: “The minister says that the only thing open standards and open source have in common, is the word open. This shows a fundamental lack of understanding at the ministry. The two share the ability to reduce the government inefficiencies caused by IT vendor lock-in."
“The minister also does not seem to understand that there are gradations of vendor-dependency, and not all of these result in vendor lock-in”, Paapst adds.
Minister Blok and the members of parliament agreed to organise a briefing on open source and open data, open to members of parliament and to those working for the central government. Paapst noted that: “This would be a good occasion to clarify this essential point.”