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Huge 180 in Favour of Free Software and ODF in the UK

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, Law at 5:27 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

US and UK flags

SEVERAL READERS urged us to mention the big news from the UK. This comes as a great surprise given the government's attitude towards Free software.

Here is the source of the news where Free software affinity is shown (they call it “open source”).

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.

Coverage we were able to pick up is as follows.

OSI: UK Government Getting Real About Open Source

As billions of bail-out dollars become trillions, it is clear that we need to be realistic about the nature and the solutions to our world-wide software crisis. Today the world spends more than $3T USD per year on systems that are largely based on vendor lock-in, not value and not free and fair competition. What is most shocking about the $3T USD number is not its sheer size alone, but the fact that fully $1T USD of that number is written off ever year when people are forced to abandon their projects before putting them into production. The place to fix that problem is not in any specific piece of software (most of which has 20-30 defects per 1000 source lines of code), but in the fundamental system of competition that is responsible for ensuring that malignant software can be successfully removed in the first place. The UK Government’s decision is a strong step in the direction of properly restoring the right kind of competition in the marketplace. The days of rewarding past performance, especially the performance of amassing billions of dollars based on strategic lock-in, must be put behind us. And we should treat any use of such funds for furthering vendor lock-in as extremely suspect and worthy of an immediate and full investigation.

Computer Weekly (UK): Government pushes open source with 10-point plan

The government is getting serious about using open source as a building block in systems development.

Yesterday its top IT policy-making body, the CIO Council, published a10

point action plan that frees central and local government departments to use open source systems where possible.

IDG: Open Source? Labour’s Working on It

There’s no doubt that in the UK the winners so far have been the Conservatives, who have seized on open source as a stick with which to beat the current government’s miserable record on large-scale IT projects, most of which have been way over budget at best, and utter failures at worst (with some managing both).

This has understandably put pressure on Labour to come up with a riposte, and yesterday it was unveiled in the form of something called “Open Source, Open Standards and Re–Use: Government Action Plan” (there’s a handy version from WriteToReply here, where you can add your comments.

BBC: UK government backs open source

The UK government has said it will accelerate the use of open source software in public services.

Tom Watson MP, minister for digital engagement, said open source software would be on a level playing field with proprietary software such as Windows.

Advogato: Open Source, Open Standards and Re-Use: UK Government Policy

The UK Government has made it clear that Open Source and Open Standards, with a focus on re-use of software development and deployment, is to clearly and unequivocably be part of the decision-making for UK Government I.T. procurement and contracting. Also part of the policy is a clear committment to engage with the Free Software community and to actively encourage the development of “Government-Class” Free Software products.

Alan Lard: UK Government: Starts The Push For FOSS?

Whoa! This comes from the Chief Information Office Council. Yes, the Government is so big they can’t have just one CIO like even the biggest Enterprise, they have to have a whole council of them ;-)

Jupitermedia: Is the UK going open source?

The new UK initiative however is not a wholesale rip and replace of the proprietary tools it already uses. It does not restrict the use of proprietary software either, but rather ‘supports’ open standards over closed proprietary lock-in.

Simon Phipps (Sun): UK Government Endorses Open Source and ODF

Late today (UK time), the British Government issued a bold new strategy for use of open source software – and open standards – in Great Britain. In Open Source, Open Standards and Re-Use, the government’s Minister for Digital Engagement (yes, really, and he’s on Twitter too) significantly revised the brave but toothless policy of 2004 “that it should seek to use Open Source where it gave the best value for money to the taxpayer in delivering public services”. This is fantastic news – the digital tipping point is at hand. (The publication is also progressive in having nominated use of the tag “#ukgovOSS” in comment and coverage so it can be found and aggregated).

The Register: Government publishes open-source strategy

The announcement follows a recent declaration by shadow chancellor George Osborne that the Conservative Party favours the greater use of open source and would take action to prove a “level playing field”.

VNUNet: Government publishes open-source strategy

Heise: UK Government policy update supports open source

Torygraph: Labour disingenously adopts Tory position on open source software

There will surely be plenty more in days to come. Since the UK is one of the countries closest this Microsoft, this is pretty major. Microsoft partners like Fortify [1, 2] will soon try to rain on this parade or maybe even 'pull a Quinn' on the CIO in charge.

“[W]hat things an app would do that would make it run with MSDOS and not run with DR-DOS. Is there [sic] feature they have that might get in our way?”

Bill Gates

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  1. Jose_X said,

    February 25, 2009 at 11:04 pm


    I’ll quote a pessimistic interpretation from irc:
    “Open Source, Open Standards and Re–Use: Government Action Plan” – - >
    “Shared Source, OOXML, and reuse Windows: Government Buyout Plan”

  2. Jose_X said,

    February 27, 2009 at 1:10 am


    180 degree change on my part from my prior comment/view.. because now I actually read the news story. It seems FOSS companies will (in theory) almost be guaranteed to win contracts because the UK has properly based their requirements on maximizing value, which is where FOSS excels.

    See http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7910110.stm

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