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06.15.13

Germany Should Follow the ‘Munich Model’ and Move to Free Software After PRISM Revelations

Posted in Europe, Microsoft at 6:04 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Technical edge and sovereign autonomy, not blind faith in Microsoft

Bamberg cathedral

Summary: Despite the success story of Munich and the increasing distrust surrounding proprietary software, bureaucrats in Berlin refuse to abandon Microsoft just yet

Backdoors specialist Microsoft is unable to shut down botnets for which it is definitely to blame, perhaps because it made its operating system a real Swiss cheese of a system. Intentional or unintentional? That’s irrelevant. There are several reports about Berlin in the post-PRISM (as public knowledge [1, 2, 3, 4]) era, saying it still refuses to move away from Microsoft, never mind well-documented risks of espionage. The leading report about it came from IDG‘s Loek Essers, who wrote about the risky decision. It is summarised by this German news network, written in English (with links to PDF files in German):

A petition to use more open source tools in the Berlin city administration that was proposed language in the federal state parliament of the State of Berlin by the German Green Party has failed. The petition was rejected with the votes of the governing SPD/CDU coalition in the “digital administration” committee tasked with its evaluation. The Green Party’s plan had included a migration to free and open source software on 25 per cent of the city administration’s workstations and a comprehensive switch of all servers to Linux in a similar fashion to Munich’s LiMux project.

The problem is partly related to staff and moles. They resist the unknown. “No specific mention of Microsoft resellers,” writes iophk regarding this other IDG report about the dangerous CIO-vendor relationships (bribes or whatever). To quote:

It’s a well-established protocol: People buy from people, especially the ones they like and trust. CIOs are no exception, and many benefit greatly from long-established supplier relationships. But there’s a fine line between healthy and unhealthy interactions, a risk that’s exacerbated by a limited amount of love (and budget) to divide across a countless landscape of courters.

Today’s best CIOs create value in large part through the introduction of innovative capabilities, speed, and flexibility — all of which are completely shut down when supplier relationships dictate the IT strategy. Even worse, with so much future revenue and success relying on a solid foundation of technology for success, these situations jeopardize the viability of the entire organization

My experience here in the UK is that Microsoft moles and partners stand in the way of changes that keep Microsoft out of the loop. It’s an HR issue, not a technical issue.

There is a concurrent affair in Germany involving the EPO ignoring the law regarding software patents in Europe. We wrote about it on Friday and Gijs Hillenius has this new report in europa.eu. It says: “The German parliament is asking the government to prevent patents being granted for software. Last Friday, the Bundestag adopted a joint motion to make copyright the exclusive method for protecting software. One of the aims of the motion is to increase legal security for developers of free and open source software. The government should make sure its laws and measures are compatible with free software.”

Parliament should also work to ban proprietary software in government, as it is a threat to national security. It should ban monopolies on algorithms as they are choking development, but why not go further? Watch what happens in Slovakia where someone gets “Fined For Not Using Windows OS”. That’s what happens when the government is held hostage by Microsoft. This has become a high-profile case:

Slovakia’s Supreme Court will intervene in a battle between a textile trader and the country’s tax office over a mandatory tax-application that requires the use of a proprietary operating system.

If Germany wishes not to face this embarrassment which Slovakia found itself in, it will have to radically change its software policy. There were several reports last week about PRISM and industrial/political espionage in Germany.

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