The government has unveiled a nine-point action plan designed to accelerate the pace of open source adoption in the public sector.
In what has been hailed as a significant step forward by the open source community, minister for digital engagement Tom Watson last night published the government’s new position on open source.
Watson said: “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. But we need to increase the pace.”
On the face of it, the government action plan could have far-reaching implications for the way resellers approach public sector tenders.
For instance, Action Five states that government departments will be made to “challenge their suppliers to demonstrate that they have capability in open source”. Suppliers must show that open source products have been actively considered “in whole or as part” of the solution they are proposing.
Action One is focused on increasing clarity in procurement. This will see the CIO Council and the Office for Government Commerce (OGC) developing guidance for ensuring open source and proprietary products are “considered equally and systematically for value for money”.
Other proposed actions include increasing open source education among government officials, and ensuring that where open source is evaluated and approved by one part of government, the evaluation should not be repeated but shared.
Watson said: “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.”
Mark Taylor, chief executive of open source supplier Sirius, hailed the announcement as a "signficant step forward".
“The UK government's announcement looks good on paper, but everything depends on what comes next," he said.
“Over 10 years, UK open source has proven its case many times over. From mid-sized companies to household names such as Specsavers, private sector leaders have made the transition. Now is the time for the government to match its words with actions, and prove it is serious about saving taxpayers money, by making the change to open source, open standards and open content.”
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