Proprietary software ‘a waste of money’, says EU commissioner

The European Union’s Internet Commissioner has criticised European public sector organisations that spend buy licensed software systems when cheaper, open source alternatives are avai

Speaking at the Open Forum Europe conference, Neelie Kroes criticised governments’ habitual purchase of proprietary technology. Instead, Kroes advised that public sector organisations instead consider "[software] that you can download from the website and that you can implement without restrictions". Such free open source alternatives include operating systems distributed under the Linux banner and document and spreadsheet package OpenOffice.

"Many authorities have found themselves unintentionally locked into proprietary technology for decades and after a certain point that original choice becomes so ingrained that alternatives risk being systematically ignored," she told attendees. "That’s a waste of public money that most public bodies can no longer afford."

Kroes added that public sector organisations which implemented proprietary software should have a "clear justification to do so".

In her previous role as the EU’s antitrust chief, Kroes oversaw the investigation into Microsoft’s practice of bundling in web browser software with its Windows operating system. The software giant was eventually fined hundreds of millions of dollars and forced to sell a browser-free alternative.

In the UK, both the previous Labour government and the current Conservative-Lib Dem coalition have endorsed the use of open source software in Whitehall.

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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