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practice e-Governance in public sector ICT procurement: what is shaping practice in Sweden

The Openness of Government | Articles1234567

e-Governance in public sector ICT procurement: what is shaping practice in Sweden

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Author: Unknown
Topic: eParticipation, eDemocracy and eVoting, Services for Citizens, User-centric Services
Country: Belgium
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Is it reasonable to require any person or organisation to purchase specific software in order to be able to communicate with a governmental organisation? This question is at the heart of an ongoing debate in many countries within the EU, because of its implications for accessibility, transparency, democracy, and fairness in procurement and markets. In this paper we consider the inability of many Swedish governmental organisations to communicate in open formats, and report on an investigation into policy formulation which has led to this situation in one sector – local government. We conducted a survey of all municipalities in Sweden. The final response rate was 99%, after 4 months and a maximum of 7 reminders. We find that there is little or no evidence of consideration given to document formats when procuring software. And in a large majority of cases, there is no documentation of any decision process. Further, organisational adoption of application suites seems more influenced by tradition and a desire to upgrade existing IT infrastructure than by any form of analysis and evaluation prior to purchase. In several municipalities specific applications are even named in procurements, which is in conflict with EU directives. There is also considerable confusion amongst respondents related to the difference between application and file format. We make a number of recommendations. Evaluation of document formats should always precede decisions on application and should include interoperability and lock-in considerations. Municipalities must take responsibility for the evaluation of both document formats and office applications before adoption. Further, when assessing the total cost of ownership the analysis should include consideration of exit costs in the procurement. The study highlights a lack of strategic decision making with respect to accessibility, and a resultant lack of transparency with respect to ICT procurement.

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