Friday, 8 August 2008

OpenSource vs Microsoft and others in EU Institutions

This is a rather large debate and I will not attempt to cover it not even partially ...

I know The Commission and the Parliament took a clear stance towards supporting OpenSource (some references needed will be added here) ...

But how is OpenSource implemented in practice?

Actually for the first time in IT history of the E. Commission, Open Source Software such as Blogs, Forums and Wikis are officially part of the IT arsenal at the disposal of the "adventurous".

The so called "Flexible Platforms" including these tools were launched at the end of last year to the relief of some at least...

So you have the standard PhP BB forum tool
example :

Wordpress for Blogging (that's great! but then again it is by default stripped off of the interesting modules... but still)

Wiki is still being experimented with. Actually they are using a paid version of wiki called Confluence Wiki (by a company named Atlassian).
The Issue is that for the moment wiki implementations are only accessible by Internal Staffers (problem currently being tackled)

[ I can't figure out why they picked one of the only Wiki platforms you have to pay to use but there must be a reason. One i see at least is that it has a powerful content indexing tool that allow you to kind of build an online library of indexed thus searchable documents]

Oh yes ! and I forgot ... there is also the "Interactive Policy Making
" tool otherwise called IPM
When i first heard there was something like that I really felt awed!! The European Commission is into Interactive Policy making !!

I was a bit annoyed to find out that all there was behind this very heavy wording was a rather badly implemented and hard to use online survey tool (like survey monkey but less potent and user friendly)

Despite the fact that these developments seem to be coming a tad late (I mean Wikis and Blogs have been around for 7-8 years?) they still constitute a MAJOR step forward for the EU Institutions.
These "Innovative" tools are combined with other interesting OpenSource initiatives such as

[Have a look also at]

In any case, albeit slowly the Commission seems to be moving to the right direction ...

...or is it??

The real potent OSS applications
(like Drupal and other OSS CMS & Knowledge management systems) that could leverage a real change in the way the EC and other institutions function
... are not considered at all ...

And I believe there is a good reason for it ...

The real key for making the EU institutions knowledge driven or turned into a learning organisation (better information sharing for better policies, harvesting the massive knowledge and content user have there siting on their hard drives etc etc)
is the Intranet of the EU institutions... and there ... surprise!!

The new system to be Implemented is called "Corporate Portal" and is in fact ... Microsoft Sharepoint ... customised to some extent to fit the needs of Staffers...

In combination with the exclusive use of Microsoft Office, Windows XP and Internet Explorer on Staffers PCs (When I say exclusive ... I mean for example that Installing Firefox is forbidden!) ... we can say that the lock-in is complete !!

So the EC decides to make its exclusive provider the company that it slammed down with the highest ever fine amounting to a hefty 899m euro ... I guess for a reason ...

In comparison to this piece of market the "Flexible Platforms" seem like a tiny figue leaf to be able to keep saying "we support OSS"

So is it just about "pretending" we support OSS while giving it all to Microsoft ?
(and others before ... like EMC ... more in an other post someday)

It is tempting, but I wouldn't go that far...
I believe there are genuine supporters of OSS inside the Commission working with whatever manoeuvre margins they have vs those in favour of MS and others.

That said ... even MS Sharepoint looks like 10 years ahead of what is currently used inside most of the EC Institutions...

Yes... it is really that bad...

[There was 1 comment by
he said...

Well said! However, I have the impression that the OSS support of the EC is really a misunderstanding. I think that the EC supports it "loosely", meaning that there is no legal/formal requirement or restriction. Maybe a legal person can enlighten us on this, it would be really useful. That being said, I personally believe that the problem is not whether the EC should use OS vs proprietary software. Let's not forget that Google - for example - is such a proprietary platform and many innovations are "closed"/proprietary. The problem is one of mentality and culture. There is an abundance of free tools available today that the EC could use to improve its own internal workings and its services to citizens. The problem usually lies in badly run organizations with no real centrally managed strategy and of course inadequate familiarity of the employees/b-eurocrats with the tools available. In other words, if you don't know that something exists, you can't be blamed if you don't use it.

Posted on 12 August 2008 12:19]

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