EuropeanCT Zen


Since the Hungarian Taxation office has been producing the necesarry taxation program only for Windows based computers, and has decided that all Hungarian businesses now have to submit their tax returns on-linem. The solution made online taxation not working for non-microsoft based computers, encouraging some of the Hungarian IT businessmen battleing against the ridiculous segregation.

“Why should a Hungarian national and EU citizen be forced to buy proprietary American software in order to communicate with his Government? There are many, many ways that a government can collect data on-line without forcing its citizens to buy expensive and unreliable foreign software.”

The case of Charles Barcza with APEH (Hungarian Taxation Office)

APEH’s tax return files simply do not work on any other platform, not even using WINE or CrossoverLinux. So if you are a Macintosh or Linux user, then tough luck mate! This has infuriated Hungarian businessman and software developer, Charles Barcza. He develops and runs blackPanther, one of the biggest home-grown, Hungarian-language Linux distribution.

Despite smiling for our photo, Charles is not a happy Hungarian at all because APEH’s decision renders his blackPanther OS and all other non-Microsoft operating systems useless for submission of tax returns in Hungary. (read the original English article here

Speaking government

The battle is still not ended, while a new initiative driven by IT professionals questioning one of the recently intorduced channels of the government – the official homepage of the Government Spokesperson.

The (nearly)Hungarian only website is the official site for the media from the government’s spokepersons- the content is only accessible for the press, so regardless the fact, that the spekings and all the other official press releases are free, possibly public domain, accessing the content is limited to the official workers of the press (bloggers seclueded)

What made the site to be focused by the mainstream media recently, was the high price of the service, and the enormous IT background, that has been purchased for it – the total cost is:$1.31m from the central budget. This fact caused a hot dispute, where politicians, IT experts have been attacking the decision of government officials.

Experts agree that the estimated costs of establishing a website like kormanyszovivo.hu would be no more than one tenth of the price paid, one of them has made the website in one night:

http://kormanyszovivo.g-art.hu/

The developer has told the story in his online video ’s aim was, to show, that the original website of the Government was a waste of money, and he has made nearly the same functionality with less errors in one night.

Counting on the Bill Steve

These examples shows, that although clear recommendations paving the way of e-government, politically and officially there are holes, where lobbist can move in. Since Hungary is a small place, there is not so much scandal in the European press around these issues.

The metods of citizen participation in issue raising have a lot of freedom. Nagy György, an IT developer has expressed his, and many of his collegues opinion to the CEO of Microsoft last year, when he has been hit with eggs at the University of Corvinus in Budapest. (check out the game inspired by his attack – http://www.egg-attack.com/ and the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtBQ4UCXQeo

The case has put the focus of Public Procurement practice of IT softwares in Hungary into focus, when the tender for 4 year frame has been directly set to Microsoft, in a value of 92,735,479.300 EUR. Pretty much, isn’t it?

The international context

The Microsoft name has been directly mentioned in the process, the circumstances of the tender were suited to Microsoft – this has made opposition by several IT organizations.(recent Hungarian statistics showed, that the Prime Minister’s Office (where e-government belongs to) Central Service Division has mentioned “Microsoft, or equivalent” in January in the Tenders 1631 times

A recent study by Openforum Europe resulted strange facts. OFE has monitored public procurement notices for computer software published on Tenders Electronic Daily. 136 contact notices were scanned for trademarks in the period from February 1 to April 25, 2008. OFE’s monitoring exercise shows that in 34 tender notices out of 136 (25 percent), company brand names were mentioned in procurement documents effectively preventing competition from alternative products. In 17 cases (12.5 percent), tender notices mentioned Microsoft or one of Microsoft’s products.

Graham Taylor, Chief Executive of OFE commented “Frankly we were shocked at the likely extent of the problem. Public authorities not only stand accused of wasting potentially billions by inefficient purchasing, but also locking their users and citizens into today’s solutions, and being unable to take advantage of new innovation in the future”

There should no be doubt about, that citizens all over Europe need opensource softwares for E-participation as well. Governments might think different, but at least, this is a process, where the voice of citizens has an extra tone (they are – we are developers as well, contributing to the community) a real, trans-national productive tone, which must be taken into consideration in the European strategy for e-participation more stronger.

We can be sure, that the right direction is open source in e-participation.

(originally written for Civil College at www.pep-net.eu)

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