Open Source, Open Standards and Re–Use: Government Action Plan
1. The Government last formally reviewed its Open Source policy in 2004. The policy made clear that the Government would consider open source solutions alongside proprietary ones in IT Procurements and that contracts will be awarded on a value for money basis.
2. Since 2004 the Government has increased its use of Open Source, particularly in operating systems and middleware components of business solutions. For example:
- 50% of the main departmental websites use Apache as the core web server.
- The NHS “Spine” uses an open-sourced operating system and, when complete, the replacement of Netware by Open Enterprise Server will mean that 35% of NHS organisations covering almost 300,000 users will be supported on Linux infrastructure.
- Open Source components are used in major mission critical systems such as Directgov and Electronic Vehicle Licensing.
3. However since 2004 the software and wider IT marketplace have also developed to make Open Source products more competitive and easier to include in enterprise business solutions. For instance:
- robust and sustainable enterprise–class business models for the implementation and support of open source solutions have emerged.
- an increasing number of major players in the IT industry are actively engaged with open source and are supporting the use of open standards.
- large enterprises, including Government departments, have started routinely to use open source components within large, mission-critical systems; as a consequence the different commercial, cost, licensing and risk models are better understood among enterprise CIOs.
4. There have also been developments in the approach to Government IT which affect the approach to Open Source:
- The creation of the Government IT profession and the open recruitment of technology professionals into government has re-established skills and cultures for a more open challenge to suppliers about technology solutions.
- The establishment of the CIO Council has led to more openness and exchange of information about good IT solutions and experience within Government. There is greater willingness and there are mature service frameworks to re-use more of the Government’s existing IT assets. Open Source and Open Standards are able to make an important contribution to making this happen.
- The agreement to the Cross Government Enterprise Architecture framework and its acceptance by the Government’s major IT suppliers has enabled the disaggregation of ‘closed’ business solutions into component requirements. This which allows sharing and re-using of common components between different lines of business.
- The licensing policies of software suppliers, particularly where government is not treated as a single entity, and the lack of cost transparency in the supply chain, have created issues in the progress towards greater cost reduction and joining-up of services across government.
- Some major departments have now established ‘ecosystems’ which allow the use of a wider range of IT suppliers within an overall service provision partnership.
- The techniques and cultures of open source have been adopted in other parts of Government business, for instance in the public consultation on the DIUS Science White Paper and the work of the Cabinet Office’s Power of Information Task Force.