Readers of Computerworld UK will be all-too familiar with the long list of catastrophic failures in the field of UK government IT. It is only a mild consolation that other countries are similarly afflicted, as this rather despairing new report from the Dutch government makes clear:
On Wednesday 15 October, the Temporary Committee on Government ICT Projects presented its final report on failures of government ICT projects. These failures have led to an unnecessary waste of taxpayers’ money.
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.
What's of particular interest to this blog is the role that open source has played in these problems. Or rather, the fact that it hasn't played a role because - just as in the UK - a Dutch government policy to use more open source and open standards hasn't been followed through. Two of the five main recommendations mention open source [.pdf]:
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.
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.
Not quite sure what that last bit means, but it's nonetheless good to have news from other countries grappling with the same issues as those in the UK. The fact that similar problems are found elsewhere suggests that maybe more could be done for those seeking to introduce open source in central government to meet up and swap their experiences - both good and bad.