Switzerland Celebrates Document Freedom Day

How did Document Freedom Day go for you? If you need a reminder about it, I wrote about why document freedom matters a month or so ago. But I note that in Switzerland there's been a setback against openness.The appeals court there has agreed...

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How did Document Freedom Day go for you? If you need a reminder about it, I wrote about why document freedom matters a month or so ago. But I note that in Switzerland there's been a setback against openness.

The appeals court there has agreed that the only way a company can have standing to complain against closed procurement by a government department (closed in that it excluded all products but the ones the government department had pre-selected) is to be the company that was chosen as the supplier, or one of their distributors. The case - which involves the purchase of licenses and support for Microsoft software - exposes two serious problems.

First, the closed tender itself is a problem. The point of tendering processes is not just to save money by stimulating competition; it is also to create the stimulus for government functions to retain their liberty by not becoming locked in to a single supplier. When they are disregarded - or, worse, legally avoided - it can be an indication of sickness, of a terminal state of lock-in following the flickering light of of liberty finally being extinguished by the purchase of the proprietary by the careless. That's certainly the case here. The European Union has rules against closed procurement for significant purchases, and I'd thought Switzerland had too, but this case shows they are happy to be slaves.

Second is the finding that the only people with a right to complain are those in a position to supply the exact Microsoft products involved. As well as endorsing the closed tender, this makes concrete a serious and dangerous loophole that will prevent true open tendering with open specifications from happening in the future.

All round, this is a lousy way to celebrate Document Freedom Day, which is an opportunity to consider and encourage the exact opposite behaviour that we can see in Switzerland. I just hope there's a fiercely independent legislator over there who will let the irony drive her (or him) to action to re-establish Switzerland's independence from the sort of American vendors who seek this abridgement of liberty.

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