The Office of the e-Envoy has launched a consultation on the adoption of open-source software (OSS) as part of its continuing drive to put pressure on commercial software providers to provide the best deals to the public sector.
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The consultation document states that "open-source software is not a hype bubble that will burst and UK government must take cognisance of that fact".
Adoption of OSS is, so far, limited in the public sector. While Dundee city council, for instance, has adopted a Linux-driven mainframe solution in partnership with IBM, a high-profile Linux trial at Newham borough council ended when Newham decided to stay with Microsoft.
The Office of Government Commerce has initiated a series of open-source trials in the public sector and is seeking to renegotiate its licence terms with Microsoft.
The OSS consultation runs until 11 June, and users are asked to comment on a series of recommendations. These include making it standard policy for the government to consider OSS solutions alongside proprietary ones in IT procurements.
It also spells out a commitment to using only products for interoperability that support open standards, so the public sector can avoid lock-ins to proprietary products.
The government may also consider obtaining full rights to bespoke software code or customisations of commercial off-the-shelf software it buys.
The draft policy says such measures will remove the reliance on individual IT suppliers, and provide more flexibility in the development, enhancement and integration of systems. It also points out that OSS is more secure against internet attacks, unlike the main applications available from Microsoft, for instance.
Open-source software: Use within the UK government http://www.govtalk.gov.uk/policydocs/consult_subject_document.asp?docnum=861