In a Communication published today, the European Commission urges public bodies to break free from vendor lock-in in their IT systems. The Commission wants public bodies to rely on standards rather than brand names and proprietary technology when they buy software.
In its Communication titled "Against lock-in", the Commission highlights that public bodies unnecessarily spend 1.1 billion Euro every year because they do not allow more competition among their suppliers. The Commission cites studies saying that 16% of public procurements make reference to brand names. According to the Communication, costs for IT contracts drop by 9% when public bodies manage to double the number of companies bidding for those contracts.
"Public bodies waste more than a billion Euro every year on systems that are black boxes to them, preventing Free Software companies from offering their services. This needs to stop," says Karsten Gerloff, president of the Free Software Foundation Europe. "Relying on Open Standards will mean that taxpayers' money is spent more efficiently, and on more innovative solutions."
In a 2011 survey cited in the Communication, 50% of public bodies stated that they lack the expertise to decide which standards they need to ask for. The Commission intends to respond by providing guidance and promoting best practices. It also says that it will use the same approach to improve its own procurement practices, which FSFE had criticised in the past.
"We look forward to seeing the European Commission lead the way, and open its own desktop systems to competition from different suppliers", says Gerloff.
While a number of European member states already have progressive policies on standards-based procurement, these only have value if they are actually implemented. FSFE looks forward to supporting the Commission and public bodies everywhere in Europe in moving to standards-based procurement practices.