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The consultation document said, "Open source software is not a hype bubble that will burst, and UK government must take cognisance of that fact."
Adoption of open source software is limited in the public sector. Although Dundee City Council, for instance, has adopted a Linux-driven mainframe in partnership with IBM, a high-profile Linux trial at Newham Borough Council ended when the council 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 open source software consultation, which runs until 11 June, asks users to comment on a series of recommendations. These include making it standard policy for the government to consider open source software alongside proprietary products when buying IT.
It also spells out a commitment to only use products for interoperability that support open standards, so the public sector can avoid being locked in to proprietary products.
The government may also consider obtaining full rights to bespoke software code or customisations of software it buys "off-the-shelf".
The draft policy said such measures would remove the reliance on individual IT suppliers, and provide more flexibility in the development, enhancement and integration of systems. It also pointed out that open source software is currently more secure against internet-borne attacks, compared to some mainstream proprietary applications.
To comment on the consultation paper, Open source software: use within the UK government, visit the govtalk website www.govtalk.gov.uk/policydocs/consult_subject_document.asp?docnum=861