[discuss] Elected representatives, government bureaucrats,
and average Canadians.
russell at flora.ca
Tue Nov 13 13:00:34 EST 2007
> Great! Then ask them how much has the government paid to Microsoft?
This is an area that is being actively worked on. It isn't about
vendor control, but basic accounting.
Joseph Potvin is heading the ITERation Project (IT for Expenditure
Reporting Automation) which seeks to make the source data to ask these
questions more accurate and accessible.
A key problem is what categories are used to record information.
Computers are often bought as a bundle with software, and the whole
bundle is placed into the hardware acquisition category. In many cases
the department/branch also pays site licenses, sometimes for the same
software (IE: Windows NT site license to be re-installed by the IT team
on a computer that was shipped with XP or Vista bundled).
Please don't claim that this mis-reporting is corruption -- most
people don't really know the difference between hardware and software,
and it isn't fair to claim they are doing anything wrong when we provide
inadequate education to Canadians on these issues. Techies claiming
these people are doing something morally wrong for not being as
technically literate as we are isn't helpful.
Making this data more accurate also requires fundamental changes to
how government operations have worked in the past, and is not really a
software project (Yes, there is software, but that isn't the focus of
the project). It requires that decision makers that have thus far not
wanted internal information about their operations available to other
branches/departments to loosen that grip. You also want to make sure
that the financial estimates aren't found to be too inaccurate,
otherwise you may put into question all the past reports that were made
available to parliament and the auditor general.
This is more about the existing culture in the bureaucracy, and less
about things which MPs have direct influence over. Blaming politicians
for this entirely missed the point.
So we are well underway to answering these questions, and then being
able to move forward on policies to solve the specific software
In the GOSLING mailing list we were just informed about some
grunt-work being done to make it easier for things like Ubuntu to be
acquired by people in the federal government. This involves some hoop
jumping through the existing software acquisition process to allow $0
acquisitions to not be disallowed by legacy rules (Intended to reduce
software copyright infringement, various technical support issues, etc).
> Even on a personal level, ask these 'leaders' how much has been sent
> to M$, just in their own personal operations? Do they know? Do they
> even have a CLUE? ;-)
I assume you mean the constituency and campaign offices, given MPs do
not have any personal choices or influence over IT operations on the
hill. Their staff is only allowed to use what the parliamentary IT
people support, which is a tiny subset of the available choices (often
only the most popular option in any given category).
How much do you know about immigration law? How about TBS guidelines
for shipping yards? Why aren't you an expert in all the areas of policy
which these politician need to know a bit about, while you expect them
to be experts in the software marketplace?
Politicians are generalists out of necessity, especially in our
antiquated First Past the Post electoral system. Getting the type of
people you are wanting into the House of Commons requires major changes
to many things. The closest tool we have for bringing in specialists
is the Senate, which many people want to abolish.
> Where is the much touted "transparency and accountability?"
> A real leader would have all government financial information online,
> in detail, today. Now that would be a change, eh?
You need to make small forward-facing steps, with ITERATION being one
of those steps. First the government and parliamentarians need to be
able to access the data, and only later that data can be appropriately
released to the public.
> Let me know if you find even one vaguely possible 'leader' in your
> many meetings.
I don't talk to them about these types of issues as I consider them
off-topic. What they are currently engaged in is policy around how the
government regulates software (copyright, patents, etc), with government
acquisition policy being a lower-priority issue that is not currently as
active (or anywhere near as much of a threat to our sector).
> They certainly are in the pockets of M$, if they can't account for how
> much is sent to Microsoft.
You are effectively saying that they are in the pockets of *every*
supplier given they currently can't accurately account for how much is
sent to *any* supplier.
If this is true, then MS isn't an issue as other software vendors are
equally in the same pockets and thus there can't be any anti-competitive
> Good luck with that. How many years have you been informing the
> politicians? How many meetings?
> And how much are we still sending to M$ through our taxes, while the
> rest of the world passes us by? If you can find ONE 'leader', let us
Does setting up a lunch meeting with Reg Alcock (who later became the
President of the Treasury Board), Joseph Potvin and Brian Behledorf
(Apache foundation) count? Unfortunately Reg was voted out of office in
the last election, but before he became a cabinet minister we had many
meetings together. The silly Gomery thing (some petty cash misplaced in
Quebec, nothing compared to the misallocated money in government IT
expendatures) distracted him from doing his awsome work to make
government expenditures more accountable. He was doing awesome work in
public accounts committee, and did quite a bit of stuff at TB before
silly politics got in the way.
These things take time, and sometimes politics gets in the way of
actually making progress.
I'm just one guy collaborating with a tiny few other people -- could
you imagine what would be possible if we had an army of Canadians
expanding on what I've been doing? I do hope that people will be
encouraged by what I've been able to do and decide to jump on board
towards success, rather than discouraged by those who claim we can't get
Russell McOrmond, Internet Consultant: <http://www.flora.ca/>
Please help us tell the Canadian Parliament to protect our property
rights as owners of Information Technology. Sign the petition!
"The government, lobbied by legacy copyright holders and hardware
manufacturers, can pry my camcorder, computer, home theatre, or
portable media player from my cold dead hands!"
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