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Software Choice Initiative

Date: 2002-10-06 14:17:24

Last week I was invited to a meeting organised by CompTIA in Brussels.
I was there as a "representant" of Software AG. Among other invited companies were Microsoft, IBM, Unysis, Siemens, SAS.
The purpose of the meeting :
"How to take actions in order to avoid that governments or public administrations impose arbitrary rules for software procurement.
An example of arbitrary rule is California's DSSA (Digital Software Security Act).
SoftwareChoice is an organisation aiming at opposing Governement policies that restrict Software Choice
The DSSA requires that all software developed for use or used by California or its agencies "shall have:
(a) Unrestricted use of the program for any purpose;
(b) Unrestricted access to the respective source code;
(c) Exhaustive inspection of the working mechanisms of the program;
(d) Use of the internal mechanisms and arbitrary portions of the software, to adapt them to the needs of the user;
(e) Freedom to make and distribute copies of the software; and
(f) Modification of the software and freedom to distribute said modifications of the new resulting software, under the same license of the original software."
The DSSA has been announced but not yet introduced as of mid-August 2002.

Such rules will are discriminatory and cause a big problem to commercial companies and Governemental organisations. Opening the sources can further lead to dis-investment of these companies as you are nearly obliged to deliver -undirectly- your latest algorithms to your competitors if you want to sell software in those administrations. eGovernement is more and more predicted to be the next big opportunity for eBusiness Software since the explosion of the Internet Bubble...

Softwarechoice.org was launched by CompTIA to establish an organisation that would watch for and act against these discriminatory rules. Software should be chosen for its its merits, not through categorical preferences. (See the other principles here)

The Policy Tracker establishes a list of such arbitrary software choice bills.

For the people who love open source, this could look like a couter-attack against open source software by the ugly big monopolistic American IT companies. But it is not !

These days, there is a big campain for opensource or free software that let people think that free software is less expensive, much more reliable and of better quality than commercial software.
An open source lobby is these days very active to convince the politics about those statements.
Our Belgian example is the recent debate on opensource at the Brussels Region (crf DataNews : Débat sur le logiciel Libre a la région Bruxelloise"). Someone must have launched the idea.

I think it is not true : Opensource software will not be better or worse than commercial software for the public sector. One of the relevant criteria to decide on the use of opensource is the Total Cost of Ownership. It is not yet proven that 1. Solutions can be 100% built with open source and 2. that the building and maintenance costs are far lower than with Commercial Software.

At the European level, such rulings are unlikely to stay in the member states. The European Commsion takes care to establish a fair competition in all the member states. However before a wrong law would be reversed by the National Courts or by the pressure of the European Commission on the member state, a lot of harm coul be caused to commercial companies that would have heavily invested in eGovernement solutions. (Imagine that the Belgian Postbox project would not be chosen because it's not built with opensource security software !)

Finally, who can predict that open software is here to stay ?

Have a look at the point of view of an open source author...


Last edited on Friday, January 05, 2007 at 11:26:04 am.