In a New Obama World the UK Government Creates a Level Playing Field for Open Source
Published 19:16, 24 February 09
It has been widely reported that President Barack Obama asked Scott McNealy to author a white paper on the benefits the US Government can derive from open source.
McNealy, cited in a BBC News story, identified them as follows:
It's intuitively obvious open source is more cost effective and productive than proprietary software....The government ought to mandate open-source products based on open-source reference implementations to improve security, get higher-quality software, lower costs, higher reliability--all the benefits that come with open software.
Today the UK Government published "Open Source, Open Standards and Re–Use: Government Action Plan"
Some interesting extracts are:
Over the past five years many government departments have shown that Open Source can be best for the taxpayer – in our web services, in the NHS and in other vital public services. So we consider that the time is now right to build on our record of fairness and achievement and to take further positive action to ensure that Open Source products are fully and fairly considered throughout government IT; to ensure that we specify our requirements and publish our data in terms of Open Standards; and that we seek the same degree of flexibility in our commercial relationships with proprietary software suppliers as are inherent in the open source world.
2. Since 2004 the Government has increased its use of Open Source, particularly in operating systems and middleware components of business solutions. For example: 1. 50% of the main departmental websites use Apache as the core web server. 2. The NHS “Spine” uses an open-sourced operating system and, when complete, the replacement of Netware by Open Enterprise Server will mean that 35% of NHS organisations covering almost 300,000 users will be supported on Linux infrastructure. 3. Open Source components are used in major mission critical systems such as Directgov and Electronic Vehicle Licensing.
5. The Government considers that in order to deliver its key objectives a programme of positive action is now needed to ensure that there is an effective ‘level playing field’ between open source and proprietary software and to realise the potential contribution open source software can make to wider aims of re–use and open standards. The key objectives will be to: (a) ensure that the Government adopts open standards and uses these to communicate with the citizens and businesses that have adopted open source solutions (b) ensure that open source solutions are considered properly and, where they deliver best value for money (taking into account other advantages, such as re–use and flexibility) are selected for Government business solutions
6. The Government’s policy is as follows:
1. The Government will actively and fairly consider open source solutions alongside proprietary ones in making procurement decisions, 2. Procurement decisions will be made on the basis on the best value for money solution to the business requirement, taking account of total lifetime cost of ownership of the solution, including exit and transition costs, after ensuring that solutions fulfil minimum and essential capability, security, scalability, transferability, support and manageability requirements. 3. The Government will expect those putting forward IT solutions to develop where necessary a suitable mix of open source and proprietary products to ensure that the best possible overall solution can be considered. 4. Where there is no significant overall cost difference between open and non-open source products, open source will be selected on the basis of its additional inherent flexibility.
5. The Government will, wherever possible, avoid becoming locked in to proprietary software. In particular it will take exit, rebid and rebuild costs into account in procurement decisions and will require those proposing proprietary software to specify how exit would be achieved.
Action 1: Clarity in procurement: The CIO Council, with the Office for Government Commerce, will develop clear and open guidance for ensuring that open source and proprietary products are considered equally and systematically for value for money.
International examples and policies, and keeping up to date with developments: The UK Government will actively seek examples from other countries and sectors to encourage the development of product knowledge and better to challenge suppliers. The UK will actively engage in the development of policies across the EU and internationally.
Open Standards: The Government will specify requirements by reference to open standards and require compliance with open standards in solutions where feasible. It will support the use of Open Document Format (ISO/IEC 26300:2006) as well as emerging open versions of previously proprietary standards (eg ISO 19005-1:2005 (“PDF”) and ISO/IEC 29500 (“Office Open XML formats”). It will work to ensure that government information is available in open formats, and it will make this a required standard for government websites.
- The Government considers that in order to deliver its key objectives a programme of positive action is now needed to ensure that there is an effective ‘level playing field’ between open source and proprietary software and to realise the potential contribution open source software can make to wider aims of re–use and open standards.
- Procurement decisions will be made on the basis on the best value for money
- The Government will, wherever possible, avoid becoming locked in to proprietary software
The time is ripe for open source in the UK.
On a final note since 50% of the main departmental websites use Apache as the core web server it would be nice if http://www.cio.gov.uk/transformational_government did some transformational Governnment to open source.
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