UK Government Takes New Approach to Open Source

Lora Bentley

The United Kingdom has revised its strategy on open source and open standards use in government. And quite drastically, according to Sun Microsystems' chief open source officer, Simon Phipps.


In a Tuesday blog post, Phipps wrote:

[T]he Minister for Digital Engagement...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."

Among other things, the government says it will consider open source alongside proprietary offerings, choose open source when it's more cost-effective to do so, require proprietary solutions to be reusable and "will expect proprietary licenses to be transferrable" within the government.


Perhaps most interesting are the "action points" that this strategy sets out. I would guess that these are the "teeth" the previous policy did not have. Straight from the government action plan, they include the following:


  • Develop clear and open guidance for ensuring that open source and proprietary products are considered equally and systematically for value for money.
  • Where open source solutions are evaluated and approved by one part of Government, that evaluation... should be shared.
  • Work with systems integrators and software suppliers to open up their solutions to meet open standards, to include open source, and to facilitate re-use.
  • Specify requirements by reference to open standards and require compliance with open standards in solutions where feasible.


The news no doubt pleases Phipps, and he offers his assistance, should it be needed, as the government makes these changes.


One can't help but wonder if other governments around the world will take this approach and run with it. Should the U.S. follow suit? Given the recent letter a coalition of companies wrote to President Obama urging similar action, as well as Obama's promises of open government, I would not be at all surprised.

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