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Ever so Politely Mugged

There’s been a great deal of fuss over the last week over the cost of software. What happened of course is that the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) stood-up, ever so politely on its hind legs and bared its teeth at “you know who”, the notorious Thames Valley Park gang, which follows close on the heels of the Treasury and the VAT, in overall ability to sweep-up funds from your business current account.

Software’s too expensive’ bleat the editorials and ‘Licensing is a minefield of ambiguity’. Well we know that and last summer’s efforts to coerce even more money out of cash-strapped end-users, encouraged a very tight-lipped British revolution. Businesses complained bitterly to the DTI and Computer Weekly that they were being mugged. Of course no policeman appeared to record the complaint – everyone knew the name of the mugger - but the Minister was suitably indignant and there was a knee-jerk attempt to sweeten the extortionate-sounding licensing exercise that triggered the protest.

Now if you think about it and accept US figures that technology costs represent as much as 60% of a company’s annual spend, then once you’ve covered the cost of the coffee budget, the annual Xmas party, the pension fund and the executive car allowance, there’s very little left to show in the accounts. If Government can pool its resources and allegedly squeeze a sixty million pound saving out of a very well-known software gorilla, then why can’t the rest of us?

The answer of course is that like everything else in this increasingly dysfunctional country of ours, we spend most of our time complaining and very little time doing anything to improve the situation. While the proud French barricade lorries and burn sheep, or is it the other way around, we, as the nation that invented ‘Big Brother’ and ‘Pop Idol’, love to be disappointed and almost expect to be taken advantage of as a birthright; having to pay £110 for a so called TV license, being just one example of chronic apathy in action.

It’s about time that the DTI started consulting with hallowed institutions such as the CBI and the IOD in pursuit of a better deal for British business of all sizes. After all, if the OGC can aggregate the public sector desktop into a single deal which will reportedly save the Treasury 60 million, why can't we come-up with a strong private sector champion, a mixture of ombudsman and Robin Hood-like figure, who might be capable of negotiating a better deal for everyone else?

But that would take cooperation, initiative and dare I say it, even imagination at the highest levels of business, government and industry. There’s more chance of saving the rain forest or getting the trains to run on time I hear you say and sadly, you’re probably right!

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