EC new policy for public authorities to avoid dependence on single ICT supplier would save public sector €1 billion a year

26-6-2013 — / — The Commission today releases a new policy to help public authorities avoid dependence on a single ICT supplier. Following the recommendations in this new “against lock-in” approach could save the EU’s public sector more than €1.1 billion a year. For example, open tendering procedures can attract increased numbers of bidders with better value bids (doubling the number of bidders typically lowers contract size by 9%).

European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes says: “Open standards create competition, lead to innovation, and save money. The guide issued today is here to help national authorities grab every opportunity for innovation and efficiency.”

Working with standards – rather than specifying a single ICT brand, tool, system, or product – when procuring ICT systems saves taxpayers’ money. However, many organisations either lack the expertise to decide which standards are relevant to their ICT needs, or fear that the initial costs of change would be too costly and might lead to loss of data. As a result, they remain locked into their ICT systems or into a relationship with only one provider.

In addition, greater use of standards makes it easier to exchange data between public systems, so citizens can supply their data only once to any public administration and it will facilitate cross-border eGovernment services that citizens and businesses need when travelling/working/studying/doing business within the EU.

The guide published today is intended to help officials responsible for both planning and purchasing ICT systems and services for public organisations. It assists countries, regions or application sectors in developing an overarching ICT strategy, consisting of main principles to make ICT systems work together and to provide an efficient service to citizens. Moreover, it helps them assess existing standards fairly and transparently, so as to choose the ones that can best support their strategy and avoid “lock-in”. The guide suggests long-term planning could help replace systems that are “lock-in” prone by standards-based alternatives; this should compensate for higher up-front costs when replacing systems. Finally, the guide offers public procurement officials practical, ‘ready to use’ guidance to help them take on the new initiative.

To support public authorities during this transition process, the European Commission will organise meetings with public authorities, ICT supply industry, standards organisations and civil society, where public organisations will learn from each other, adapt to best practices that emerge, look into common problems and suggest common solutions.


The Digital Agenda of Europe identified “lock-in” as a problem, and committed to providing guidance on the link between ICT standardisation and public procurement to help public authorities use standards better in order to promote efficiency and reduce “lock-in”. The Commission issues today a Communication, accompanied by a Staff Working Document that contains a practical guide on how to make better use of standards in procurement, in particular in the public sector.

Useful links

Open standards in the Digital Agenda
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Digital Agenda Action 23: Provide guidance on ICT standardisation and public procurement
Open standards principles UK
Open standards principles The Netherlands

Digital Agenda

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Linda Cain (+32 2 299 90 19)

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