The Government has made a step-change in policy towards open-source IT. In a publication today, Tom Watson MP, Minister for Digital Engagement, has effectively said that open source solutions are going to be given far greater opportunity at government level. That means a number of thiings, not least of which is the opportunity for companies outside the usual coorporate IT structures to pitch for government contracts and also use government data in the open source world.
He says Government will take “further positive action to ensure that Open Source products are fully and fairly considered throughout government IT” and “publish our data in terms of Open Standards” and even more significantly look for “the same degree of flexibility in our commercial relationships with proprietary software suppliers as are inherent in the open source world.” Read: Microsoft et al will be asked for more “flexibility”.
Here’s the statement:
Open Source has been one of the most significant cultural developments in IT and beyond over the last two decades: it has shown that individuals, working together over the Internet, can create products that rival and sometimes beat those of giant corporations; it has shown how giant corporations themselves, and Governments, can become more innovative, more agile and more cost-effective by building on the fruits of community work; and from its IT base the Open Source movement has given leadership to new thinking about intellectual property rights and the availability of information for re–use by others.
This Government has long had the policy, last formally articulated in 2004, that it should seek to use Open Source where it gave the best value for money to the taxpayer in delivering public services. While we have always respected the long-held beliefs of those who think that governments should favour Open Source on principle, we have always taken the view that the main test should be what is best value for the taxpayer.
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:
We want to ensure that we continue to use the best possible solutions for public services at the best value for money; and that we pay a fair price for what we have to buy.
We want to share and re-use what the taxpayer has already purchased across the public sector – not just to avoid paying twice, but to reduce risks and to drive common, joined up solutions to the common needs of government.
We want to encourage innovation and innovators – inside Government by encouraging open source thinking, and outside Government by helping to develop a vibrant market.
We want to give leadership to the IT industry and to the wider economy to benefit from the information we generate and the software we develop in Government.
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.
This open source strategy addresses these key points. It sets out the steps we need to take across Government, and with our IT suppliers, to take advantage of the benefits of open source.
Tom Watson MP
Minister for Digital Engagement
You’ll find more here.