18 March 2004 The UK Office of the e-Envoy has launched a public consultation on the adoption of open source software in order to help promote public sector adoption and ensure value for money from commercial software vendors.
The document, for public a consultation ending 11 June, states that “open source is the start of a fundamental change in the software infrastructure marketplace… it is not a hype bubble that will burst and UK government must take cognisance of that fact”.
Users are asked to comment on a series of recommendations made in the document, such as making it mandatory for government bodies to consider open source software alongside proprietary packages in IT procurements.
This, says the document, is in an effort to reduce costs and improve value for money, provide more flexibility in the development and integration of systems and remove reliance on individual IT suppliers.
The document also points out that open source software is better at securing government bodies against Internet attacks than mainstream applications from companies such as Microsoft.
In addition, the document suggests that public sector bodies “will only use products for interoperability that support open standards and specification in all future IT developments”. In this way the government will “seek to avoid lock-in to proprietary IT products and services,” it says.
The public consultation is in support of the European Commission’s eEurope 2005: An Information Society for all initiative, which sets the target “to promote the use of open source software in the public sector and e-Government best practice through exchange of experience through the Union.”
In addition, the Office of Government Commerce has initiated a series of open source trials in the UK public sector.
However, use of open source in the public sector has so far been limited. Dundee City Council, for example, recently deployed a Linux-driven mainframe from IBM in a major server consolidation programme.
But Newham Borough Council in East London decided, after a high-profile Linux trial, to stay with Microsoft, concluding that open source software was unable to support the many applications that connect different departments.