Dutch govt Microsoft desktop deal riles MPs

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Dutch government plans to adopt Microsoft software for 245,000 desktop PCs have caused a stir among Dutch MPs, online magazine Webwereld reports.

MPs from D66, SP, GroenLinks and PvdA are unhappy about the proposed deal, worth €147m. Just two years ago a motion by MP Kees Vendrik (Green Party) was unanimously carried in the Dutch Lower Chamber to guarantee that by 2006 all IT systems in the public sector would operate on open standards. He now fears that his motion will be "entirely ignored". Michel van der Bel, CEO of Microsoft in the Netherlands, at the time already criticised the motion as being "oversimplified and one-sided".

However, a survey conducted last year by research institute MERIT (Maastricht Economic Research Institute on Innovation and Technology) on behalf of the OSOSS (Open Standards and Open Source Software) programme showed that awareness of open standards and open source is steadily progressing in the Dutch public sector. Although closed standards remain widely used within public sector organisations, ICT managers see clear advantages in adopting open standards.

The Dutch town of Harlem, for instance has already migrated over 2000 desktops to OpenOffice.org after the city was faced with an annual bill of about €500,000 in licensing fees to upgrade from an early version of MS Office. The city found its costs for training and migration to be €50,000, roughly 90 per cent lower than its license costs for an upgrade to Office 2000.

Several MPs now demand an explanation. They ask why there wasn't a public tender, which is mandatory for (IT) projects of €236,000 or more. A definitive vote on the proposed plans is expected next week. ®

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