In this age of austerity, public sector IT leaders are constantly looking for alternative solutions to deliver more with less.
In this context, it is perhaps surprising that the government's overall approach to open-source solutions has been lukewarm to say the least, especially by comparison with other European countries including the Netherlands and France, which have embraced open source to deliver greater value through collaboration and efficiency to the taxpayer.
However, central government departments are leading the way in terms of open-source adoption and innovation. For example, the Department for Transport is switching to an open-source platform to cut duplications and make much-needed savings.
A new Cabinet Office report should further support public sector adoption of open source. This report shows that the idea that open-source projects are inherently insecure has finally been dispelled.
It says, and I quote: "There is no difference between open-source and proprietary software."
This news should be a green light for IT leaders to engage with open-source providers to deliver innovative technologies to cuts costs and improve citizens' services online.
For too long, public sector organisations have failed to reap the benefits of cost-effective open-source software due to these security fears.
It is time for the UK government to recognise the potential of efficient and secure open-source alternatives to make significant savings in the long term.
However, the Cabinet Office, which also polled departments and integrators, found that customers do not really understand open source.
Hopefully, this can now change, thanks to the creation of the Open Solutions online forum, which will help assess whether or not a department will benefit from using open source.
This will be welcome news to developers, who have been calling for greater recognition of the benefits of the open-source community for many years.
The government's Big Society agenda is underpinned by a philosophy of communities, voluntary organisations and individuals working together for the greater good. This approach mirrors the open-source software model employed by tens of thousands of developers in open-source communities such as Apache, OpenOffice, Mozilla Firefox and Drupal.
These communities constantly strive to deliver faster and more efficient solutions for users in a public and collaborative manner.
By embracing the Big open-source Society, the coalition could demonstrate a new approach to technology that engages with and recognises the enormous contribution developers can make to the deficit reduction programme.
Jim Shaw is EMEA managing director of Acquia
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