UK Government publishes open source strategy

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UK Government publishes open source strategy

The UK Government has laid out a radical 10-point policy for using open-source software that is aimed at gaining greater value from IT.

Traditionally, the Government has used software primarily developed by commercial companies, though there are scattered examples of the use of open-source software, after a commitment to use more in 2004.

Half of the Government's departmental web sites use Apache as the core web server, while the NHS “spine” uses an open-source operating system.

But the Government wants to go much further, according to minister for digital engagement Tom Watson.

“The world of technology has moved on hugely since we last set out our thinking on open source, which is why it was so important to update our policy, " he said.

“Open-source products are more competitive and have become easier to include in business, and major players in the IT industry now support the use of open standards."

The Government's 10-point strategy is:

• To actively consider open source solutions alongside proprietary ones in making procurement decisions;

• Procurement decisions will be made solely on the basis of the best value for money solution to the business requirement;

• There will be an expectation on suppliers to consider a mix of proprietary and open-source software;

• Where there is no difference on cost open-source software will be chosen as preferable;

• The government will, wherever possible, avoid becoming locked in to proprietary software;

• Where non-open-source products need to be purchased, government will expect licences to be available for use across the public sector;

• The government will use open standards in its procurement specifications and require solutions to comply with open standards;

• Rights for re-use will be sought for all commercial software purchased;

• All systems developed for one part of the public sector are expected to be reused in another rather than developed again;

• When suppliers are proposing a third-party product there should be full price transparency.

The CIO Council will work with government buying agency the Office of Government Commerce to develop a programme to educate government IT buyers on open source software and accompanying guidelines.

Technology industry body Intellect welcomed the announcement.

"It is in the Government’s, economy’s and UK software sector’s interest that the opportunity to compete for public sector business is available to software companies regardless of their business model," said a spokesman.

"Open standards are fundamental for ensuring interoperability across government, a crucial factor for a joined-up government."

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