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29 October 2008, 17:00

EC to publish open source procurement guidelines

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The European Commission's Open Source Observatory and Repository (OSOR) is working on guidelines for public bodies on how to procure open source software. A draft version of the report Guidelines on public procurement and Open Source SoftwarePDF is available for public discussion until 5th November. The authors of the document include Rishab Gosh, a member of the board of the Open Source Initiative (OSI) and author of an EU study on the role of open source software in the European economy.

As well as offering practical assistance for tenders for open source and open standards based software, the guidelines also include extensive explanations of the legal framework, and template texts for tenders. Substantial space is dedicated to describing current tendering and selection procedures within the EU which, according to the report, currently strongly favour proprietary software and specific vendors. They see poor awareness of the applicable regulations and a lack of controls as a further obstacle to non-discriminatory, transparent procurement which promotes competition.

The study emphasises the importance of clearly defined functional and technical requirements, in sharp contrast to the not uncommon shopping lists of proprietary hardware and software. It points out the hidden costs that vendor lock-in – dependency on a particular supplier – brings. It views one possible hazard as the high exit or conversion costs that arise where a public body has saved data in a proprietary format subsequently wants to edit it using different software.


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