07 July 2006

Reasons Not to Use Closed Source: No. 470

Yesterday I passed on a story about a closed source company unilaterally upping its support prices, and simply locking people out of their files if they refused to pay. Now, here's another good reason not to use proprietary systems.

The UK's shiny new IT system for the National Health Service (NHS) is fast becoming the biggest disaster in the history of computing. The latest area to suffer is that of childhood vaccinations:

Child vaccination rates may be falling to risky levels after a new IT system was installed, a health watchdog says.

Ten out of London's 31 primary care trusts have installed new software to manage the vaccine programme as part of a £6.8bn overhaul of NHS computers


Richard Bacon, a Tory MP and member of the Commons' Public Accounts Committee, said: "The national vaccination programme has been one of the NHS's greatest successes."

But he added the IT upgrade appeared to be "destroying it at a touch of a button".

And why is this all happening?

A spokesman for NHS Connecting for Health said the new system was implemented at short notice because the previous supplier "withdrew support for its ageing system from the market".

Had this "ageing system" been open source, the NHS could simply have called in another third-party contractor and given them the code. Since it was closed source, it was doomed when the supplier abandoned it, leaving the health system up to its neck in the proverbial.

Nor is this a matter of simple inconvenience: children are likely to die, if herd immunity is gradually lost as a result of these IT failings.

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