Yesterday in Skopje, the Government of Republic of Macedonia signed a contract for Strategic Partnership with the Microsoft Corporation.
The deal will last for four years. The signatories are the Vice-President of the Government Ms. Radmila Shekerinska and head of Microsoft in Europe, Middle East and Africa, Mr. Jean-Phillipe Courtois.
After the signing ceremony, Mr. Goran Radman, General Manager of Microsoft Adriatics (region including all ex-Yugoslav countries and Albania) held a meeting with representatives of several Macedonian NGOs, which he used to present his corporation's viewpoint on the deal.
The following organizations participated in the meeting: Free Software - Macedonia, ICT Development Center Metamorphosis, Balkan Idea and Transparency - Macedonia.
Mr. Radman explained that the deal includes strenghtening of legal protections on intellectual propery, complete legalization of the software used by the Government, and Microsoft's investment of $ 6 Million in the country, via localization of their products into Macedonian and Albanian language, and transfer of technological and busines know-how to 20 chosen Macedonian companies.
He also explained that Microsoft will correct the "mistake" regarding its attitude towards the Macedonian identity, such as using constructs such as "FYRO Macedonian" instead of the proper name of the Macedonian language in its publications.
According to the just made "Enterprise Agreement," the Government will have to pay $ 3,9 Million in the next four years in four installments, in order to get 6,200 licences for the software it already uses. These licences include workstation software (any MS OS in use, from 3.1 to the latest models, XP included; and MS Office XP Professional), server software, client access licenses and consulting services.
Besides, the Government employees will be allowed to use the workplace software at home, and Microsoft will donate 6,200 more licences to be given to educational institutions by the appropriate Ministry, and train several hundreds current computer science teachers.
According to Mr. Radman, Microsoft expects to start gaining profit from the Macedonian market in 5 years.
Supporting the Government's announcements for full transparency, Mr. Radman explained that Microsoft, especially after it opens a local office, is ready to cooperate with all local entities working on ICT development, including the Open Source community.
The representatives of Free Software – Macedonia asked about the availability of the deal's contents, and Mr. Radman informed them that the Government may decide to publish it, as it contains no secrecy constrains. He also stated that Microsoft promotes standardisation of the document formats to be used by the Governments, in order to achieve maximum interoperabilty of software from any vendor.
Mr. Filip Stojanovski of Metamorphosis asked about the announced role of Microsoft in the creation of the Macedonian National Strategy for ICT development, and addressed the need for quality assurance in the process of localization, especially through involvement of relevant domestic experts.
Mr. Radman replied that Microsoft is ready to help with the National Strategy, but that, based on experiences elsewhere, he does not advise to spend too much time on paperwork, but to use the EU's Lisbon Document for a model.
He also explained that Microsoft intends to employ its standard method of localization, which includes control by domestic language experts and some sort of cooperation with relevant bodies, but that Microsoft will have to have the final word on this matter.
The localized version of the software will be made through an add-on language interface, a software module that can be plugged in existing programs. It will most probably be free of charge for all users of legal software.
Mr. Zoran Jachev of Transparency – Macedonia asked about the market price of the software purchased with public money, and Mr. Igor Petreski of Free Software replied that the price for the Windows is around 80, and for the Office around 500 euros.
According to Mr. Radman, considering the fact that the deal includes server software and other products and services, the calculations are complicated (so he did not provide a full balance sheet), but he estimates that the Government will pay about a third of the commercial price.
The same interluctor asked if the Government was obliged to make a tender, and Mr. Radman replied that the Government people in charge of the deal, who he commended as solid IT experts, used a clause in the anti-monopoly law which allows exclusivity because Microsoft is the only producer in the world creating the technology used by the Government.
More information from other media: