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Bolzano, please don't waste your money


FSFE supports open letter from LUGBZ to Province of South Tyrol

Dear Minister Roberto Bizzo,

On 25 May 2010 the regional government authority of Bolzano decided to spend 2.2 million EUR over the next three years to renew software licenses from Microsoft Ireland, and to buy additional licenses. All this was done without a public call for tender, making it impossible for competing suppliers of similar software to make offers of their own.

We ask you to rethink this decision. It will influence your strategic position over a much longer time frame than the three years for which the licenses will last.

The European Commission’s vice president Neelie Kroes said on June 13 2010 in Brussels:

“Many authorities have found themselves unintentionally locked into proprietary technology for decades. After a certain point that original choice becomes so ingrained that alternatives risk being systematically ignored, no matter what the potential benefits. This is a waste of public money that most public bodies can no longer afford.”

With your decision to buy Microsoft Sharepoint and Microsoft Office communication server software without evaluating Free Software alternatives you will increase your organisation's dependence on Microsoft. You will take your IT systems further down the one-way street of proprietary formats and proprietary software, locking in your organisation's own data along with that of the citizens of Bolzano.

You are also running the risk of accusations about the improper handling about procurement processes. The protracted lawsuit against the Swiss Federal Administration, which is still ongoing, provides an example of the possible legal consequences.

The decisions you are making today will have an impact for the years to come. Breaking out of the lock-in will only become more expensive over time, as you risk turning more of your valuable data into digital toxic waste.

Rather than throw good money after bad, we ask you to step back from your deal with Microsoft, and issue a public call for tender open to all suppliers. When making a choice about the future solution for your organisation, we urge you to consider the strategic freedom which Free Software, Open Standards and open file formats provide, rather than deepening your dependence on a single vendor.

You might also wish to investigate the opportunities that such a strategy would provide for local businesses in the province of Bolzano-Bozen, which has successfully turned itself into a Free Software hub.

In the interest of the citizens of Bolzano-Bozen, we urge you to accept the offer of a dialogue extended to you by local Free Software experts at the GNU/Linux User Group Bolzano (LUGBZ) and the Free Software Foundation Europe. We stand ready to advise you on your strategic options in software procurement, and discuss the opportunities afforded by Free Software and Open Standards.

Karsten Gerloff

Free Software Foundation Europe