E-gov’t underway in Macedonia with Microsoft help.

Macedonia and Microsoft Corp. announced Monday several e-government Web sites have opened as part of a two-year-old partnership agreement to enhance IT in the Eastern European country.

One portal allows users to search for government information and services, and a second one helps small and medium-size businesses start e-commerce Web sites. The third site is an intranet portal for government officials to keep track of decisions at government sessions and queries between ministries and parliament, the government and Microsoft said.

Microsoft signed an agreement with Macedonia in December 2003 to help the country develop its IT infrastructure with an emphasis on the company’s products. Microsoft agreed to provide free training and donate software licenses while also providing Macedonian language support for Windows XP and Office XP, among other commitments.

Macedonia’s end of the deal included enforcement of intellectual property laws and valid licensing of Microsoft software in public institutions.

Microsoft’s agreement with Macedonia is part of its moves to push its desktop products as governments take long looks at open-source offerings, said David Bradshaw, principal analyst at Ovum Ltd. Microsoft fears that open-source software could “spoil its revenue,” Bradshaw said.

“Microsoft is utterly desperate to keep its government practice rolling in any way it possibly can,” Bradshaw said.

While open-source software is free, there’s not the assurance of support from one vendor, Bradshaw said. Governments may go with a proprietary package offered for the same or less price as open-source options, he said.

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