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Government Open Source United Kingdom Politics

UK Goverment IT Chief Backs Open Source Suppliers 72

Blacklaw writes "The UK government's deputy Chief Information Officer has outlined plans to hand public sector IT contracts over to small businesses and suppliers of open-source and cloud-based solutions in an attempt to balance the books. Speaking at the 360IT conference in London on Wednesday, Bill McCluggage also promised greater transparency over IT procurement, with tenders and contracts published online. Outlining a commitment to 'simplify, standardize and automate', McCluggage said the government would make it easier for open-source suppliers to compete for contracts, making the public sector less reliant on individual suppliers, or locked into proprietary systems."
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UK Goverment IT Chief Backs Open Source Suppliers

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @11:54PM (#33671982)

    Lets hope this brings an end to central government giving out contracts to HP/EDS which over run and never work.

  • by Nursie ( 632944 ) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @12:15AM (#33672114)

    Yeah, I'll believe that when it happens. I'm sure there's a nice money-flow from the public purse to HP and then into the politician's campaign funds.

    Still this seems to be a positive move, unusual for politics.

  • by SplashMyBandit ( 1543257 ) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @12:49AM (#33672280)
    Usually courageous people like that get removed from office pretty quick. Also, his proprietary software opponents (vendors) will probably be very quick to pounce on any delays or missteps while systems transition to Open Source (while delays in proprietary software projects are quietly swept under the carpet due to 'commercial sensitivity'). I hope this guys pulls it off and levels the playing field - which should also save a lot of taxpayer pounds/dollars
  • by malkavian ( 9512 ) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @04:26AM (#33672966)
    This seems to come hot on the heels of the end of the Microsoft licensing deal with the NHS [].
    One of the side effects of the "Age of Austerity" is that the Government really doesn't have the money to throw around anymore. Real savings are having to be made in the Public Sector.
    A simple choice is: Do we really get sufficient added value from having all the pretty functionality from the Microsoft Office suite, or do we really just need the basics (i.e. from Open Office, which is being used in Bristol City Council to a large extent) to create documents which can be stored. They may not look quite as slick, but they do the job nicely at a fraction of the cost (including support).
    As Open alternatives start to be used, companies are increasingly finding that the myth of "there are no readily available skillsets in them, unlike Microsoft applications" really is a myth, and that there are a good many highly skilled people available at prices largely in line with the Microsoft setup, but often with a broader skillset behind that. It just seems to be that this is filtering into the view of Government now..
    I'll be watching this one with interest; when used correctly, Open Source can be a huge cost saver. It's not the panacea for all ills, but when used as the right tool for the right job, everything works far better.
  • by chrb ( 1083577 ) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @04:56AM (#33673084)

    the people running government IT seem to lack focus on what they want to have delivered

    This happens in every area of the IT sector. I have seen million dollar projects run by corporations trundle on and on for years before eventual cancellation. Projects tend to only get canned when the manager of that project leaves the company, which often occurs at the same time as the company coming under severe financial pressure. As long as the company as a whole is profitable, individual projects are often given a lot of freedom.

  • by Linker3000 ( 626634 ) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @06:45AM (#33673528) Journal
    "Ah, but Minister, it works like this... Open source products cost zero to procure. Admittedly there are the associated installation and support costs, but that holds true for commercial products, so let's take the installation and support costs out of the equation. This leaves the cost of acquisition, which, as I said, for Open Source products is zero. Now, consider a commercial software alternative that would cost, say £15 million to acquire, yet we negotiate the price down to £10 million, so we can rightly say that we have saved the taxpayer £5 million - an not inconsiderable sum - but look at the Open Source alternative; it costs zero to acquire so there is zero that can be saved by negotiation - nothing - so what is better for the taxpayer: something on which we can save zero, or something for which we can negotiate a £5m discount? Basic maths and economics, Minister. "
  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @07:48AM (#33673806)

    Why wouldn't you consider Open Source on equal footing with commercial software by default?
    That is easy you need to think like a government.

    The one rule.
    1. It is not what you do right that gets you promoted. It is what you do wrong that gets you punished or fired.

    Let's say you spend millions on an infrastructure and training people to use an open source product that does something useful, but that project after a time is no longer maintained because the key developer(s) moved to new and better things. Sure you can hire staff to maintain the code. But to the guy who OKed the product in the first place showed that he made a bad decision as they need to put even more resources then before that was unplanned.

    Sure the same thing can happen with any product from a big company. But if that happens from say from IBM or Microsoft you may need to pay more to switch or higher fees to keep the software working, but to the approver he can come out clean as he made a decision at the time based on industry standards and it was the evil companies fault for dropping the product. Also with a big company you can have a contract to insure that it will be supported for a agreed period of time.

    It is not fair, it is not open sources fault. It is that government don't run on rational thinking but how to ease the minds of it's voters who has 1/2 of it's population with below average intelligence.

  • UK Mindsets (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 23, 2010 @08:53AM (#33674178)

    Never discount the UK mindset of stubborn resistance to change.

    There is a school, not a half mile from where I sit right now, who have 1 Windows box for the school IMS and every other machine is either Mac or Linux. All the desktops for the pupils to use are Linux and most staff use Linux laptops.
    They have had this system in place for at least the last 4 or 5 years.

    Are they held up as an example? No.
    Do other schools look to them? No.
    Did the previous Government cite them as a brilliant example of cost saving and the freeing up of data from proprietary control? No, in fact they continued to sign the UK education sector up to illegal (by their own rules) "contracts" with MS and ignored the whole issue.

    Our new Government has an even greater reputation for bending over for big business.

    The headline sounds nice, but when it comes to actually carrying it out - I'm not holding my breath.

  • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @09:18AM (#33674434) Homepage Journal

    Will it be exactly the same project - in terms of scope, deliverables, team, tools, methodology...?

    Unless it is I don't see why the premise leads to the conclusion at all.

    Applying your logic, since Leonardo da Vinci failed at heavier than air flight it's clear that Wright brothers faked it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 23, 2010 @09:38AM (#33674654)

    The Swiss project was pretty much doomed to fail. The IT director apparently didn't do a very good job on the human factors, scheduling was a disaster, and the media was actively working against it, though I'll try and resist the temptation to be cynical about whether anyone's pockets were being lined to encourage that.

    Britain, on the other hand, has a few success stories in open-source already - in fact, enough successes and failures that people pretty well know what to expect.

    Besides, after the London Stock Exchange debacle, they probably aren't inclined to consider a proprietary Microsoft solution as a silver bullet, and even more so when that many vendors are involved.

APL hackers do it in the quad.