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Government reaffirms commitment to open source technology

07 Jan 2013
Cloud computing use is a major government IT strategy

The government has used the publication of its mid-term review on Monday to reaffirm its intention to level the playing field for open source vendors competing for public sector contracts.

The mid-term review contained a number of promises relating to the government's IT strategy, although few were surprising.

However, the government's recommitment to open government procurement, particularly to open source vendors, will be good news for some.

"We will continue to open up government procurement, create a level playing field for open-source software and split large ICT projects into smaller components," said the review.

The uptake of open source software in the UK's public sector has been slow, even though the government claims it is committed to using the technology.

The Labour government initiated the  a drive to increase public sector use of open source software but the current government that has intensified those efforts.

In 2009, the Labour government published a policy document entitled Open Source, Open Standards and Re-Use, which claimed the public sector should use open source rather than proprietary alternatives if there was no significant cost difference.

In March last year the coalition government promised to further this goal, and to procure open source solutions to cut public spending on government ICT where appropriate.

In November, the government took its first major action on its open source strategy, with all government departments signing up to the implementation of open standards.

Departments are now required to ensure all new IT contracts with suppliers abide by open standards principles, allowing software interoperability and data and document format interoperability - a move which favours open source software.

Davy Nys, European vice president at open source firm Pentaho, said he welcomed the government's statement in its mid-term review, but it remains to be seen how quickly action to engage with open source vendors will happen.

"I hope the government intends to consult with open source companies to reach actionable solutions in a reasonable time frame," he told V3.

"Considering how much time and taxpayer's money the UK government stands by implementing open source technology, it is in their best interest to make it happen."

Also in the mid-term review the government furthered its open data strategy, promising to publish open data summaries in a way that is "more meaningful" to the public.

The government promised to continue its push to greater transparency in the public sector too and its ongoing commitment to improve cyber security in the nation.

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Rosalie Marshall

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 Rosalie covers government IT, business applications, IT skills, open source technology and social networks.

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