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16 March 2011, 14:10

Netherlands open source report says no savings can be made

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Recent reports of the large savings, in the realms of billions of euros per year, that could be made in Dutch government by switching to open source and open standards have been sharply contradicted by the publication of the official report of the Dutch General Audit Chamber (GAC) investigation into cost savings that could be made.

The GAC calculated that of a 2.1 billion euro budget for ICT within central government, only 88 million euros was spent on licences and 170 million euros on software maintenance costs. As this was a relatively small part of the overall budget, the officials concluded that savings from switching to open standards and open source software would also be small. The report also said that there was no hard evidence that the benefits of open standards would become tangible.

The report also called on the government and parliament not to approach ICT issues such as open source and standards purely from a cost savings perspective and to lower its expectations of cost savings from deployment of open source. The Interior Minister responsible for ICT said that the report was not going to stop deployment of open source saying there were real possibilities for deploying open source components.

An internal reportPDFDutch language link, shelved last year, on savings that could be made by switching the Dutch government to using open source on the desktop claimed that there were savings of between 500 million and a billion euros per year that could be made. The report was written by a senior civil servant who had been responsible for the project to create a single common desktop for use within central government. Members of Parliament petitioned for access to the report after they heard of its existence. The ministry released and then withdrew the report claiming publication had been a mistake.

The official report is has met a critical response. Green MP Arjan El Fassed told webwereldDutch language link that the report only took into account desktop systems within central government, but major savings could be achieved if the entire government and the non-desktop systems were included. Fassed said that if even a fraction of the savings that were suggested in the ministry's internal report were achievable, then they should be pursued for the public good.

Jan Stedehouder, a Dutch open source activist, told The H that because the GAC were told to focus on cost savings it did not consider other benefits of open standards and open source. He was concerned that the government could spend 2.1 billion euros on ICT but could not say what the money was being spent on. He also noted that the report had included exit costs from current systems as part of the cost of introducing open source, which he believes is unfair, as the exit cost of existing systems is part of the cost of that system, not subsequent systems.

The only group satisfied with the report appears to be the Dutch association of IT, Telecom, Internet and Office Business, an industry association which generally concurredDutch language link with the Audit report's findings.

According to Stedehouder, the Netherlands no longer has any policy that pushes open standards and open source forward, and with the final convention of the Dutch NOiVDutch language link open source program managers, due on 24 March, it was unlikely there would be any new initiatives to push open source forward in government.


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