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09.08.11

British Government Under Fire for Ignoring Free(dom) Software, Responds With Face-Saving Promise

Posted in America, Europe, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft at 1:19 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Letting the US manage the UK digitally

David Cameron and Barack Obama

Summary: The British government misses an opportunity to employ Computer Science students who are eager to lay their hands on source code; instead it continues to sign cheques for Microsoft and under pressure it makes the mere promise of “evaluating” an open source vendor

NOT so long ago we wrote about government procurement in the UK, noting that unfair bidding processes were excluding Free software. As we have already shown, sections of the public sector, including BECTA and the NHS for example, have been deep in Microsoft’s pocket. Microsoft and its allies are bullying smaller companies out of the room, just like in South Africa. Such cartel-like practices should be investigated, but they never come close to any substantial scrutiny. If someone complains about this, a fatwa/SLAPP gets used to silence the complainer. The UK is very libel lawsuits-friendly.

There are many articles about the subject of the UK government snubbing Free software. The most prominent one was in the BBC (from Rory) although there are some other reports that we put in our daily links. Here are some of the latest and belated ones:

1. UK Gov Struggling with Open Source, Spending Heavily on Proprietary Software

Despite its promise to embrace open source software for cutting down IT expenditures, the UK government has been consistently paying a hefty amount on proprietary technologies, a new report claims.

The matter was brought in to daylight by BBC after it had filed a Freedom of Information request as a part of its investigation to highlight the government’s policies regarding software procurement.

The BBC report states that despite making bold claims about embracing open source software products, the government continues to rely heavily on the bigger firms and their proprietary products.

2. Whitehall breaks open source promise

Many departments in Whitehall appear to have given up on promises to spend more on open source, and are instead continuing to lay out huge sums on proprietary software.

Following a number of BBC freedom of information requests it has been revealed millions are still being spent on software from big name vendors.

This is despite claims from Francis Maude that there will be a ‘level playing field’, centred around the government’s promises to slash public spending. Even the Queen’s neighbourhood has been looking to the cheap alternative.

These people are giving themselves another chance after betraying voters, according to this article which says “UK.gov works on YET ANOTHER open-source push”:

Yet another government definition for the term “open standards” is incoming because the Home Office isn’t satisfied with the current wording of its so-called Action Plan.

The department’s IT wonk Tariq Rashid confirmed at an open source forum in Oxford yesterday that the government had been “lobbying against” the current definition for open standards, and added that a new version was set to be published by the end of 2011.

At the TransferSummit event he spoke about how a policy to encourage open source, open standards and re-use of software across central and local government had been mulled over since 2004 without any real action kicking in. And that’s despite several redrafts.

[...]

Rashid said that within the next year, all gov departments would have a mandatory requirement to demonstrate they had fairly evaluated an open source vendor for any new software procurement.

Well, we shall see. Words are cheap. Romania used a similar trick to pretend that it at least consider Free software as well. This does not oblige one to make such a choice, just to say it was “evaluated”. Corrupt procurement processes are much of what we’ll show in upcoming leaked diplomatic cable. It helps to have a lot of evidence.

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