One of the key issues for those of us who provide online services and products is that we constantly come up against big boys who have developed their products on the back of public sector funding. It makes for a very uneven playing field.
In the past ten years VisitScotland have made helped make some private software developers very wealthy indeed. Schlumberger Sema and Tiscover both benefited from software development contracts that lead to other private sector projects and destinations being unable to compete with the vast amounts of (unnecessary public) investment.
There was less "market failure" more market destruction.
With the EC Commission reinforcing that the main tourist boards had to watch what they were involved in we thought that the new VS Digital project would allow private projects to prosper but we continue to see leaks of contracts that just don't seem right to us.
As far as we are aware the national tourist board are discussing the use of Eviivo software to aggregate availability searches. This is anti competitive by its very nature and superfluous as there is no market failure.
We read last week that the Content Management Software being used by VisitScotland to populate their websites is now being licenced separately by Outer Hebrides from New Minds (partners of Eviivo in booking delivery.) Being paid twice by the public sector for the same information. Cool work if you can get it.
And similarly this morning we find out that while VS are promoting a "self publishing" of events for VS business users, the information once input by businesses across Scotland is owned by the software company Golbal Datapoint and NOT Visit Scotland themselves. This information direct from the company themselves.
We were enquiring about the licencing of this information for our own websites and in spite of assurances given by Robbie Parish at a VS meeting last year, the cost of distributing this information is not reasonable but in fact astronomic.
We were quoted £12,000 to licence the information and promote it through a single website for one year!
So in essence VisitScotland have paid for a data company to put their software onto VS websites without apparently owning the data. The data is then sold on by the company to Scottish businesses trying to promote tourism in Scotland. For sure the disclaimer is there before you upload your information.
"Please note that your event's details are added to the database of our data agency, Global DataPoint and may be syndicated to other client websites and marketing outlets which subscribe to Global DataPoint's data feed"
It doesn't say that we have abdicated responsibility for the ownership of your data and can therefore not share it with anyone else who's using it without a substantial fee. We cannot buy the information form VisitScotland even if we wanted to!
Now I know I can be pedantic but this is a little on the ridiculous side surely?
- Public money pays for the data collection tool
- The public body loses control of the information
- The private company then licences the information to cash strapped businesses in Scotland to market their own events.
You have to be kidding...
Unfortunately it is becoming a consistent them of this blog and to some degree we feel sorry about battering on about the inefficiencies of the VS.com project but at some point all of these separate issues are going to have to be answered and not just because we want to be seen to be clever
The real reason is that it's costing Scottish tourism, marketing and software businesses (such as ours and many more) a competitive position and costing investment and jobs. That is why we get so bloody heated up about it.
It is time that this whole ten year debacle was referred back to some auditing body in the Scottish parliament and responsibility identified.
Various bodies have flagged up these issues ahead of the fact not with hindsight and minutes and previous statements online can verify that these issues were all raised and dismissed as being inconsequential.
They are not inconsequential and are causing otherwise viable businesses in Scotland some grief. If this was the trams project it would be all over the papers...