Swiss Government Has Microsoft “Dependency”

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Open source advocates claim that a Swiss government department must open its doors to non-proprietary software

An ongoing case brought by Red Hat and other open source vendors against the Swiss government’s decision to award an uncontested IT contract to Microsoft could prove pivotal, according to experts.

Commenting on a recent decision by Swiss courts to reject the group of open source suppliers objections against the Microsoft contract, Mark Taylor of the UK-based Open Source Consortium, said the case shows how some government departments find it extremely difficult to extracate themselves from using Microsoft’s technology.

“In effect the Judge said the Swiss Public Sector is so addicted that it would be damaging to withdraw the dependency right now,” said Taylor.

Taylor added that if the ongoing case finds in favour of Microsoft when it finally concludes, it could set a troubling precedent for open source technology uptake in the public sector.

“I suspect this is a watershed moment and this case will play a pivotal part in the public debate from now on…,” said Taylor.

According to comments sent to eWeek Europe by the Swiss law firm, BCCC AVOCATS, last month the Swiss Administrative Court reportedly rejected the claim filed by 18 open source software providers against the Swiss Confederation’s decision to renew a three-year agreement with Microsoft to supply servers and desktops to the Swiss Federal Bureau for Building and Logistics.

In May this year, the open source group led by Red Hat protested what they claim was a Swiss government contract given to Microsoft without any public bidding. The Red Hat group asked a Swiss federal to overturn a contract issued to Microsoft for 14 million Swiss Franc (£8 million) each year. The contract, for “standardised workstations”, was issued with no public bidding process, Red Hat’s legal team reported in a blog – because the Swiss agency asserted there was no sufficient alternative to Microsoft products.

Also commenting on the ongoing case, Karsten Gerloff from the Free Software Foundation said that the Swiss department concerned should break free from its dependance on one vendor.

“Free Software offers users strategic control over their infrastructure. This problem is by no means limited to Switzerland. Across Europe,
it’s quite common for public bodies to either hand out contracts to proprietary software vendors without a proper public bidding procedure,” he said in a blog posting.