"The appropriate use of standards will help alleviate lock-in", says a draft guideline prepared for the European Commission, on the link between ICT standardisation and public procurement. The draft text was published on 21 December 2011.
According to a survey done in preparation to the guideline, around 40 per cent of public administrations report some degree of vendor lock-in. "This can prevent authorities from switching to optimal solutions and making best use of public funds."
IT systems designed for citizens’ use that are based on proprietary technologies which cannot be implemented by competitors, will restrict the choice that citizens have in the way they interact with the public authority, the guide explains. "For example, a public website that can only be accessed through a specific Web browser will oblige citizens to use that specific browser. This can have a number of undesirable effects, including limiting competition in the ICT market."
Symptoms of lock-in include the use of specific brand names of products in tender descriptions and requests for backward compatibility with proprietary systems, of which only a few suppliers have knowledge. These practices can limit competition in the IT market.
The draft text explains that procuring ICT that is based on standards accessible to all ICT suppliers can help promote competition. "This will reduce the risk of public authorities becoming excessively dependent on a single vendor for the provision of ICT products or services beyond the timeframe of the initial procurement contract".
The guide is for the use of public authorities in learning to use standards in order to reduce lock-in
The draft guideline was published shortly after a workshop at the EC in Brussels on 12 December.
The EC on 23 January also launched a new consultation, to gather views on the guideline and on impacts of practical implementation options. Those interested in the survey can submit their input until 14 February.
Draft guideline for the procurement of standards- based ICT
Survey 'Helping public authorities procure ICT based on Standards'
Workshop on procurement
Europe's Digital Agenda, action 23
EU open source research projects