How Healthy are the Views of the BCS?


This morning I was giving a talk at the EFMI (European Federation for Medical Informatics) Special Topic Conference, held at the headquarters of the British Computer Society (BCS).

It was interesting – well, for me, at least: I'm not sure what my victims in the audience thought of my usual ramblings on open source and openness. What became clear in talk after talk was the need for standards in healthcare: the open source dynamic just doesn't work in a fragmented market without dominant, open standards.

But the morning was also noteworthy from a rather different viewpoint. During the coffee break I went to play with some of the BCS computers in the public area. I was taken aback to see them using Internet Explorer, and not Firefox, as standard. This didn't seem to square with the conference welcome by the BCS's chief executive, David Clarke, in which he noted that open source was an area of particular interest to the society. And yet when I enquired why Firefox was frowned upon, I was told that it was the official “policy” of the BCS to use Internet Explorer.

This is very worrying: if Britain's leading computing institution thinks that Internet Explorer is the acme of safe, fast, standards-based browsing, it could probably do with some healthcare itself.