A short online survey has been launched on behalf of the Information Society and Media Directorate General of the European Commission to gather views on possible ways in which public authorities could be helped to procure ICT goods and services that are based on greater use of Standards. The survey will be open until 14 February 2012.
ICT - Elements of Good Practice' are now ready, advising public authorities on how to make the best use of available standards when commissioning hardware, software and IT services from external suppliers. The guidelines are illustrated with best practices from all over Europe.
With this survey, the European Commission is seeking views on how useful these guidelines might be, as well as views on practical implementation measures. Responses from all interested parties are invited, for all sections of the questionnaire.
One of the main objectives of public procurement is to be as open as possible and to elicit bids from a good number of competitive suppliers. However, when a public authority is highly dependent on a single vendor for its ICT systems there will be a lack of competition and value for money might not be achieved in the long term. Symptoms of possible lock-in include using specific brand names of products in tender descriptions and requesting backward compatibility with proprietary systems of which only a few suppliers have knowledge. The appropriate use of Standards will help alleviate lock in.
Another advantage of using Standards is that they help achieve interoperability, which is defined as the ability of two or more systems to exchange information and use the information that has been exchanged. This is important in the context of the European Commission's ISA (Interoperability Solutions for European Public Administrations) programme which facilitates electronic collaboration between public authorities. It becomes easier to share information across ICT systems if their architectures are based on common Standards. (Actions 24, 26 and 27 of the Digital Agenda).
The Digital Agenda is Europe's strategy for a flourishing digital economy by 2020. It outlines policies and actions to maximise the benefits of ICT for all. Several actions are related to improved standard-setting procedures and increased interoperability. Europe must ensure that new IT devices, applications, data repositories and services interact seamlessly anywhere. The new standard setting process that is in the making will allow referring to more standards in public procurement. A multi-stakeholder platform will develop a list of standards that can legally be used in public procurement bid (Action 21 of the Digital Agenda).