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January 29, 2014

Government’s move to open source neglects real spend problems

Millions in public sector spending could be saved but should more be done?

By Duncan Macrae

The Government has neglected structural and policy issues in an ill-fated attempt to reduce costs, one CTO has warned.

The Government today announced plans to abandon what it considers to be expensive software.

The public sector has spent £200m has been spent by on Microsoft’s Office suite alone since 2010.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, however, believes a significant savings could be made by switching to software that can produce open-source files in the open document format (ODF), such as OpenOffice and Google Docs.

Document formats will be standardised across Whitehall to help break the "oligopoly" of IT suppliers, and improve communications between civil servants.

Maude said: "The software we use in government is still supplied by just a few large companies. A tiny oligopoly dominates the marketplace.

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"I want to see a greater range of software used, so civil servants have access to the information they need and can get their work done without having to buy a particular brand of software."

But Matthew Finnie, CTO at Interoute, owner-operator of a European cloud services platform, believes the Government is ignoring the bigger picture.

He said: "While it is laudable for the Government to want to switch to OpenSource it misses the real point.

"With annual spending around 6.9bn, issues with efficiency are structural and policy driven and won’t be fixed by swapping out one license type for another, a saving which accounts for nowhere near the whole cost of document management in Whitehall.

"Stripping back policies and bureaucracy, like a solid review of the protective marking system, the PSN and other cost hurdles, would open up public sector IT further to a far more competitive tendering process."

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