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November 4, 2011

Government publishes open source guidelines

UK govt wants to dispel some of the myths around open source software

By Steve Evans

The Cabinet Office has published an open source procurement toolkit in an effort to increase its adoption in the public sector.

The toolkit contains information on procuring open source software as well as guides to vendors and what sort of costs are likely to be associated with going down the open source route.

In total the toolkit, available on the Cabinet Office’s website, contains six documents: All About Open Source – including FAQs, ICT Advice Note – Procurement of Open Source, Procurement Policy Note on Open Source, OSS Options, CESG Guidance on Open Source and Total Cost of Ownership.

"The purpose of this toolkit is to ensure that there is a level playing field for open source and proprietary software and that some of the myths associated with open source are dispelled," the website says. It aims to provide best practice for evaluating the use of open source software.

Before coming into power the Conservative party called for greater use of open source software in the public sector. Its ICT Strategy, published in March this year, said it would use open source "where appropriate."

James Peel, product manager at open source IT monitoring firm Opsview, welcomed this recent announcement. "It’s promising to see the government promoting the use of open source in the public sector. However there does remain a stigma around open source software which simply shouldn’t be there."

"As with any piece of software, the key is to evaluate it before signing up. Too many people think the best software is the most expensive software and as a result they end up wasting money on expensive proprietary technology," he added.

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"There are viable open source alternatives for government. Some of these are pure open source projects and some are built on open source platforms which are perfectly fit for purpose and can be used at a fraction of the price. Is a bit likes cars – you don’t need to buy a fleet of Jaguars to transport the whole of Whitehall around. A simple leasing contract for a Ford or Toyota would more than meet everyone’s needs," Peel said.

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