The Low Country Aims Higher

The government of The Netherlands is waking up to the cost of non-Free software. A report on “failed” IT projects includes the following conclusions:
“c. The cost savings and societal benefits of ICT policy in general must be made visible. A summary of the amount of taxpayers’ money saved through the ICT strategy, the open source policy and the expansion of digital government should be included in a separate chapter in the annual report of the central government’s operations.
d. The government has already decided to choose open source and open standards wherever
possible. However, this policy is still not being implemented sufficiently in practice. This needs to change: not only can this approach bring about enormous cost savings, but also opens the door to criticism and dissent.”

The Netherlands, alone, has seen billions of Euros squandered each year due to failed ICT projects. It is so easy to sign a cheque and hope problems will disappear but that abstraction allows a lot of waste such as paying for permission to run computers the government owns outright. By using FLOSS a huge slice of costs is eliminated. Better management will take care of the rest but opening ICT projects to competition surely reduces costs and promotes local businesses boosting GDP and tax-revenue. ICT that is a revenue generator rather than a cost is the pot of gold for governments everywhere. ICT should not be a conveyor-belt of money flowing to M$ and “partners”. That’s not the purpose. Finding, modifying, creating and distributing information as efficiently as possible is the only valid justification for money spend on ICT.

See Conclusions and recommendations of the Dutch temporary committee on government ICT projects

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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8 Responses to The Low Country Aims Higher

  1. DrLoser says:

    Written from your dark soul, this shows you are looking for any possible negative.

    No it doesn’t, Robert. It just shows that I read the document all the way through, and that at the point of the OP you almost certainly grabbed the highlights from a third party (say the FSFE, or one of your other feeds).

    The document is comprehensive and about failures.

    I wouldn’t go so far as to call it “comprehensive,” Robert — in fact, it offers remarkably little in terms of concrete proposals — but I won’t quibble. Comprehensive it is, then, and it does seem to be focussed on failures.

    If nothing else, I seem to have encouraged you to read all thirteen pages.

    They show that FLOSS is part of the solution not the problem.

    No they don’t, Robert. petitio principii yet again. (Note that FLOSS might be: but it isn’t demonstrated in this document.)

    Clearly, even a project that fails will cost less with FLOSS.

    A proposition bordering on the irrational, Robert, if I may be so bold. Clearly, a project that is not undertaken at all will cost less than a project with FLOSS. Heck, even the cost of running a PC for a couple of hours to produce a FLOSS proposal costs more than nothing at all.

    As usual, you are analysing the cost/benefit ratio without bothering to trouble yourself with the “benefit” bit, let alone the risks and sundry other variables. Cost is King with you, isn’t it?

    They are not planning to fail.

    For over a hundred years now, Robert, the Chicago Cubs have “not planned to fail.” And yet they have failed every single time, for a hundred years.

    Show me somebody who “plans to fail,” or else admit that this is once again petitio principii.

  2. Dougman wrote, “M$ = Over-priced IT”.

    I think we should not object so much to the price as the inflexibility. One can agree to pay 10X as much if one is in a generous mood but there is no reason at all to accept M$’s EULA in any case. It is slavery. There was no reason to accept software that had no security at all back in the day when GNU/Linux was available. Folks who accepted M$’s yolk a decade or longer ago are just now counting the cost. It’s infinite and it’s not just money but time, aggravation and inconvenience. Many schools where I worked got M$’s OS for $0 but they still wanted to migrate to GNU/Linux when they had the chance.

  3. dougman says:

    M$ = Over-priced IT

  4. DrLoser wrote, “All this says to me is”.

    Written from your dark soul, this shows you are looking for any possible negative. The document is comprehensive and about failures. They show that FLOSS is part of the solution not the problem. Clearly, even a project that fails will cost less with FLOSS. They are not planning to fail.

    Instead of considering FLOSS a tiny part of the solution, read the report in its entirety as they suggest:
    “The Committee examined a number of projects, primarily in an attempt to find a common factor or pattern of mistakes from which lessons can be learned to prevent such failures being repeated in the future. The problem as a whole is intractable and will never be brought fully under control.
    Nevertheless, the committee feels that a few robust organizational measures – provided they are implemented consistently and coherently – will be sufficient to prevent a repeat of a large proportion of the problems identified. The Committee’s recommendations are closely interrelated and should be viewed as a total package of measures for the Cabinet to adopt.”

  5. DrLoser says:

    Robert Pogson, blind to the actual intent of his cites as usual, wrote “I guess that’s why they remind the government that it officially recommends FLOSS and expects to save a bundle using FLOSS.”

    It’s a thirteen page document with all sorts of recommendations about ICT implementation and process management, Robert. By my count there are precisely four sentences dealing with Open Source:

    A summary of the amount of taxpayers’ money saved through the ICT strategy, the open source policy and the expansion of digital government should be included in a separate chapter in the annual report of the central government’s operations.

    The government has already decided to choose open source and open standards wherever possible. However, this policy is still not being implemented sufficiently in practice. This needs to change: not only can this approach bring about enormous cost savings, but also opens the door to criticism and dissent.

    The government should take steps to ensure that its “comply or explain” policy in respect of open source software and open standards is observed.

    All this says to me is:

    1) The government of the Netherlands has a stated policy on adopting Open Source and Open Standards where possible.
    2) They’re not doing it.
    3) They’re not even giving reasons for not doing it.

    This is hardly a ringing endorsement for FOSS, is it? If you read the document as a whole, it’s just a small part of the main thrust: ICT projects in the Netherlands are poorly planned, poorly executed, don’t follow stated government guidelines, and have a worrying lack of transparency.

    Note that the government and its IT departments could comply 100% with these recommendations simply by inserting the following paragraph into every report:

    “We reluctantly chose not to use Open Source and Open Standards for this project, because the solution on offer was broken crap that didn’t meet the needs of the project.”

    Note that this assertion does not even have to be true.

  6. DrLoser, getting it all wrong as usual, wrote, “this document suggests that the Dutch temporary committee on Government IT projects is just about as completely uninterested in FOSS waffle as the rest of us.”

    Yes. I guess that’s why they remind the government that it officially recommends FLOSS and expects to save a bundle using FLOSS.

  7. ram says:

    Government procurements, in most places, most of the time, are dominated by who can pay the biggest bribes and kickbacks. It is tough for Open Source and small/medium sized companies to compete in such an environment. If certain well known (but shall remain nameless) giant IT companies come in and pay the requisite incentives then Open Source can get a look in. Otherwise, another well known “software company” with a long history of providing bribes and kickbacks will remain in place. Many of these government offices don’t actually “need” IT to begin with — they ran more efficiently when they used to use only paper.

  8. DrLoser says:

    Don’t you think it’s about time you read your cites before drawing conclusions, Robert? I did us all a favour by reading this one.

    Then, in the spring of 2014, the Committee held public hearings with 32 witnesses, all with wide experience of government ICT projects from different perspectives.

    Not, I would suggest, the best start. People with “wide experience of government ICT projects” are usually the people who caused the disaster in the first place.

    But you may know different. Let’s look at the ten recommendations of these unimpeachable savants, shall we?

    1. The Dutch government does not have its ICT projects under control.
    2. Politicians may not realize it, but ICT is everywhere.
    3. The government is not achieving its policy ambitions for ICT.
    4. The governance structures for ICT projects are very poor.
    5. The government is insufficiently aware of the costs and benefits of its ICT projects.
    6. The government’s ICT knowledge is inadequate.
    7. ICT project management is weak.
    8. ICT procurement processes incorporate perverse incentives.
    9. The contract management of ICT projects is unprofessional.
    10. The government lacks the ability to learn from its mistakes concerning ICT.

    If anything, this is an attack on buying in government systems from the Big Four (or whatever they are now) IT consultancies. Open Source is mentioned precisely twice: once under major heading (3) and once under major heading (9).

    If anything, this document suggests that the Dutch temporary committee on Government IT projects is just about as completely uninterested in FOSS waffle as the rest of us.

    I find this curiously refreshing. I’m a big fan of the Dutch.

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