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Government departments face possibility of open source 'spot checks'

30 May 2012
Cloud computing use is a major government IT strategy

The government has revealed that it is considering implementing departmental open source spot checks to ensure they give proper consideration to the technology when buying IT systems.

Home Office lead IT architect Tariq Rashid, told V3 that Whitehall's record with open source remained patchy.

"Some departments are great at looking at open source and others are not so good," said Rashid.

"What we haven't done and what we may consider doing is spot checks to ensure [all departments] are properly evaluating [open source technology]."

Currently, Rashid said central government departments are not pressured into adopting open source technology, although many do so after witnessing successful projects in other departments.

He also said major government procurement deals above a certain price are checked by the Cabinet Office central spend control process.

"This additional check at the Cabinet Office makes sure departments have looked at cloud technology and open source. Now departments fear having their projects pushed back so they are beginning to come to us first and ask about Alfresco and Apache," said Rashid.

Rashid was speaking at the Open Government Summit in Westminster, an event organised by open source providers Zaizi.

During a presentation Rashid called for the government to improve its act when procuring IT and argued open source technology must be considered at every stage.

Rashid said the public sector often lacked an understanding about open source technology and wrongly assumed it was less secure than proprietary alternatives.

The Home Office official claimed a public sector website had recently avoided paying £400,000 by using open source software, while a new border control messaging system based on open source technology will save the taxpayer £10m over the next five years.

"A messaging structure that will work internationally in the border space cost £12m over five years [when running on proprietary technology] but now we will spend £2m over the next five years," said Rashid.

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Rosalie Marshall
About

Rosalie Marshall is the special projects editor and chief reporter at V3. Previously she was a reporter for IT Week and channel editor for online television site LocalGov.tv. Rosalie covers government IT, business applications, IT skills, open source technology and social networks.


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