04.23.08

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Urgent Need for Transparency in Procurement, Standards-Setting Process

Posted in Deception, Europe, Free/Libre Software, FUD, GNU/Linux, ISO, Microsoft, OLPC at 9:00 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Visibility a prerequisite in a war against corruption

It has for long been argued — in several different places in fact — that one of the principal adoption barriers for Free software to face is corruption. The obstacles to clear are not purely technical.

“…one of the principal adoption barriers for Free software to face is corruption.”There are quite a few companies that are wealthy enough to engage in corruption and spread disinformation in order to protect their business legacies. Not a single company is blamed here and the problem is not unique to the technology sector (automobiles, pharmaceuticals and oil companies immediately spring to mind), but that is just the reason why companies like Microsoft simply cannot and absolutely must not be ignored (see this recent comment which contains a set of links about Microsoft’s role in derailing OLPC).

The “anti-Microsoft” label (and its equivalent labels) are frequently used [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] to deter those who look under the surface to discover some of the real sources for interference in Free software procurement and embrace of open standards.

Several days ago we began to mention a series of investigative stories from The Inquirer , which was grilling Newham’s CIO, Richard Steele. He has, for quite some time as a matter of fact, been blamed for betraying the British public (taxpayers) by doing legwork for Microsoft. The Inquirer, which has gotten under his skin, continues to reveal more damaging evidence.

The salutary lesson to draw from our dealings, Richard, is not whether you can trust the press. It is rather a lesson in managing expectations, a process every CIO should know well.

The expectations you invested in your 2004 deal with Microsoft, as enshrined in the memorandum of understanding, were also unrealistic.

To recap, the original MOU said the use of Microsoft software would “improve Common Performance Assessment results and Star Ratings” measured by the Audit Commission.

The analysis presented in the INQUIRER on Friday demonstrated that this expectation had not been met.

When we asked you about this on Friday you told us there was a new MOU. Now you accuse us of twisting your words.

How would you prefer to describe what happened to the original agreement? If it has not been scrapped, perhaps it has been decommissioned, recycled, sold on eBay?

Having been told you had drawn up a second MOU with Microsoft, we were clearly interested to learn what new terms you had agreed in the public interest. You said it was confidential. But the first MOU was deemed fit for publication under FOI rules.

You also said the first MOU was only ever a three year deal. But the document was accepted by a Council vote as part of a 10-year deal.

Now four years since you signed the original agreement it is proper for us to ask how well the public money you are giving Microsoft is spent.

It soon becomes clearer that when a company reached out for validation using a study from a firm with which it's associated, then it’s no better than what Microsoft does. It’s an orgy of money and power where one covers the back of peers in order to ensure affluence and protect a closed circulation of influence, excluding GNU/Linux and Free software in the process. This is very timely, particularly in light of Microsoft’s hijack of panels and standards bodies. A day or so ago Bob Sutor called for immediate change, but did so very politely.

Should we require full disclosure by standards participants?

[..]

When people sit around a room debating a standard, should everyone there and those who might be using the standard have the right to

* Know who is financially supporting the people debating or creating the standards technology and documents?
* Review all emails between the participants related to the standard?
* Have public access to the minutes?
* See all drafts of the standards?
* Have the sessions videotaped and streamed out to the general public and web?

ISO in moneyAmong the more recent fiascos that were covered we have the BSI (UK), Kenya, Norway (see photo from the protests below) and even ISO.

Free software rarely fail to meet the needs and demands of the market. It might, on the other hand, fail to fight corruption or play in an equally dirty fashion (fighting fire with fire like the Linux Foundation does).

In this Web site we will continue to strive to expose those who are part of what’s suitably called the “shillcosystem”. If you come across stories that fit this theme, please do share them. The site’s readership has grown significantly in the past week, so a difference is made. The truth is gradually being revealed, so it’s becomes harder to get away with misbehaviour — making it a constructive criticism as opposed to crazed rants.

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