Quebec sued for not considering open source. Why this is bad policy

Quebec is being sued for not considering open-source software, but this is the wrong way to encourage adoption.

Facil, a Quebec-based open-source organization, has sued the Quebec provincial government for buying Microsoft software without considering open-source software, as CBC reports. The problem, it seems, is that Quebec has an "open markets" policy that it is supposed to follow. In practice, however, the Quebec government IT buyers have been shoveling money into Microsoft and other proprietary vendors without any real consideration for open source:

In [the lawsuit], the group says the provincial government has refused to entertain competing bids from all software providers, opting instead to supply public-sector departments with products bought from proprietary vendors such as Microsoft and Oracle Corp.

Government buyers are using an exception in provincial law that allows them to buy directly from a proprietary vendor when there are no options available, but Facil said that loophole is being abused and goes against other legal requirements to buy locally.

Perhaps most egregiously, nearly $80 million has been spent on Vista licenses this year. Now we know who is buying Vista. :-)

While I think the government should absolutely live up to its policy obligations, I also believe that good software, including open source, eventually finds a home, even despite Microsoft's lobbying. I have some experience selling open-source software into Quebec: the government buys when the price and functionality is right.

In my recent travels to Latin America, I heard much the same: companies and governments are buying into open source in droves, but not necessarily because they are legally required to do so. In fact, I heard the opposite: the governments buying into open source are often those where they are not forced to do so. Ultimately, a purchasing decision is a human decision. You've got to reach the humans before you can sell the software.

I'm sympathetic to Facil's cause, but I believe it should be spending more money on educating buyers on the merits of open-source software, not of open-source software government policies.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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