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08.07.11

European Procurement Rules Need Review for Built-in Bias

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, GPL at 2:52 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Summary: Romania ‘bans’ the GPL, whereas in Italy, the Puglia region council is starting to mandate the opposite type of policy

SEVERAL weeks ago we wrote some posts about procurement rules in the UK. These are unjust and one might even say “corrupt”. These rules ensure that those who lobby for them will continue to profit without having to work hard, let alone compete. The public suffers from this because of cost and quality. In the nation of Romania we have seen many such examples of misconduct and covered some of them in, e.g.:

Someone from Romania has just informed us of this translation of articles whose main message is:

There’s a government procurement bid going on in Romania for creating the software and infrastructure to modernize criminal records’ access within the country and to interoperate with European countries’ similar systems.

It is likely to become one of the many overpriced, poorly specified and poorly implemented solutions that are cranked out by companies that would not survive in the private sector but are close to the decision-makers and are tacitly supported by large IT companies whose proprietary software and expensive hardware have key roles such projects. Nothing new here.

What sets it apart however from other cases, at least to my knowledge is that in the general requirements section there’s a small paragraph stating:

“All versions of sofware that are part of the offer must not be published under a ‘free software license’ – GPL or similar”

Is that truly the case? And if so, then the FSFE has work to do there. The very opposite policy — one preferring or enforcing the use of Free software — should be embraced in the public sector. So once again we come across ridiculous regulations which must have been influenced by the fox in the hen house. Recall what Nichi Vendola did when Free software was gaining ground in Italy (Puglia). We now discover that, based on research from OSOR, Vendola may not get his way entirely:

The council of the Italian region of Puglia is about to approve the law proposed last December that will make the use of open source and open standards mandatory for the region’s public administrations, according to news reports. The region expects to save up to a million euro per year by increasing its use of this type of software, at the same time creating business opportunities for small and medium sized enterprises.

What about the education sector? Activism in this area is very much needed to ensure that policies are not perverted to the point of no return (like software patents in the United States).

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