Held hostage

There’s a nice post from David Eaves today on the need for a “MuniForge” — a repository for open source municipal software.  Without getting too into the details, I wanted to point out one line that really struck a chord with me, discussing the conundrum that governments find themselves in when procuring proprietary software:

…most solutions are proprietary and so lock a city into the solution in perpetuity.  This not only holds the city hostage to the supplier, it eliminates future competition and worse, should the provider go out of business, it saddles the city with an unsupported system which will be painful and expensive to upgrade out of.

Talking to many government IT folks recently, I’ve heard this story over and over again.  The notion of a city being “held hostage” by a software vendor is a bit abstract, and is probably hard for people outside the business to grasp, but it’s a real and important problem.  To make it more concrete, and to continue to make the case for open source and open data, we should focus on telling these stories.

So, what’s your proprietary government software horror story?