The Office of Government Commerce has launched a trial using web data standard technology, XML, to establish a common standard for e-procurement across Whitehall.
A joint initiative between the OGC and the Business Applications Software Developers Association, the trial aims to find the most effective way of allowing computers running different purchasing packages to talk to each other.
The OGC had originally planned to develop its own system that could be used as a model by other departments. Although still ongoing, this project has now been superceded by the XML scheme.
An OGC spokesman said, "Data and information gained from suppliers as part of our smaller, more localised procurement will be added to the research now being undertaken as part of the XML pilot.
"We are still working on our own internal system but we are very keen to ensure that whatever system we have takes into account [the fact] that we are working towards XML technology that will offer online access to all suppliers," he added.
According to OGC officials, the XML initiative aims to make it easier for government departments to run IT purchasing systems, while ensuring that suppliers are able to do business with government online. The move is also expected to enable easier access to the government marketplace for small to medium-sized enterprises.
The spokesman said, "We are determined to ensure that any supplier, regardless of their size, that wants to do business with government, should not be denied the opportunity, simply because of problems of interoperability."
It is expected that the XML schemas used in the trial will become compliant with the e-Government Interoperability Framework, which sets out the standards for interoperability across the public sector.
The OGC was set up in 2000 and is responsible for civil central government procurement policy and best practice in a range of areas, including IT and supplier management.