The Open Source, Open Standards and Reuse Strategy
‘Open Source’ has been one of the most significant cultural developments in ICT over the last two decades. Products that provide access to the source code that powers the application enables the wider development community to exploit new and innovative solutions to business requirements. These products are based on open standards and can thus be re-used to solve multiple problems and can be repurposed quickly.
Traditionally, the public sector has relied on Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) software or bespoke solutions from global providers. This restricts the ability of the public sector to reuse solutions, reduces flexibility to manage assets efficiently and prevents government organisations from switching suppliers. The Open Source, Open Standards, Reuse strategy provides guides on how to use Open Source alternatives that meet public sector requirements. Government already commits to using only open standards for documentation. The ICT strategy will build capability within the public sector to increase the amount of open source code and software in use and make it available for reuse elsewhere.
To ensure an effective level playing field between open source and Commercial Off-The-Shelf software so that we continue to use the best possible solutions for public services at the best value for money.
Government will use open standards in its procurement specifications and will require all solutions to comply with open standards.
Wherever possible Government will also avoid becoming locked into proprietary software and will take exit, re-bid and rebuild costs into account in procurement decisions
The Cabinet Office published the Open Source, Open Standards and Re-use: Government Action Plan in February 2009. This built on the 2004 Open Source Software policy published in 2004.
The Open Source, Open Standards and Re-use: Government Action Plan was refreshed in December 2009. This provided more clarity on the actions expected of suppliers and procurers of Government ICT.
Many public sector organisations have demonstrated that Open Source can be best value for the taxpayer – in web hosting services, the NHS infrastructure and as components in critical systems such as Directgov.
Government supports the use of Open Document Format (ISO/IEC 26300:2006), which reduces the time and cost of publishing and sharing content on websites. This links to the Digital Engagement activity that Cabinet Office are leading on behalf of the public sector to publish data for use by other individuals and organisations.
What are the benefits?
Public sector organisations can become more innovative, more agile and more cost effective by using open source code, open standards and re-using existing solutions and assets rather than procuring new services each time a requirement is identified.
Re-use is a key principle that will reduce costs and delivery times within Government. Through identifying assets and applications available for re-use across the public sector and making them easily accessible and available, Government can significantly reduce the number of procurements that are run every year.
Open Source, Open Standards, Reuse (ICT Strategy) [PDF]
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