About this consultation

Title: Open Standards: Open Opportunities
Flexibility and efficiency in Government IT
Topic: Formal consultation on the definition and mandation of open standards for software interoperability, data and document formats in government IT
Applicability: Central government departments, their agencies, non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) and any other bodies for which they are responsible
Related documents: Open Standards Survey Outcome Government ICT Strategy, Government ICT Strategy – Strategic Implementation Plan

Consultation scope

The Government ICT Strategy, published on 30 March 2011, has already committed the  Government to creating a common and secure IT infrastructure based on a suite of compulsory open standards, adopting appropriate open standards wherever possible.  

However, there is no single, universally accepted definition of the term open standard, therefore the Government must be clear about what it considers are the key components of an open standard and describe the circumstances in which it will consider mandating particular open standards.

This formal public consultation focuses on open standards for software interoperability, data and document formats in government IT requirements and is seeking evidence to inform:

  • the definition of open standard in the context of government IT;
  • the meaning of mandation and the effects compulsory standards may have on government departments, delivery partners and supply chains;
  • international alignment and cross-border interoperability.


The policy resulting from this consultation will apply to all central government departments, their agencies, non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) and any other bodies for which they are responsible. Local government and wider public sector bodies will be encouraged to adopt the policy to deliver wider interoperability benefits. Responses from consumers of government IT and information services, including delivery partners from charities, voluntary and community groups are welcomed. These organisations, their current and potential IT software and information services providers, including trade bodies, are considered key stakeholders for this consultation.

Responses from academics, technical experts, economists and lawyers would be useful in helping to develop the evidence base. We would also welcome views or case studies from comparable organisations, international governments and standards bodies.

Please note that due to the complexity of this topic, not all questions will be relevant to all stakeholders.

Economic impact

An impact assessment has not been completed prior to this consultation exercise. Whilst the adoption of open standards is the foundation for delivering more flexible and cost-effective IT in government, they are building blocks upon which interoperable IT is delivered. Costs and benefits are realised by the products and services that build upon them.  The proposed policy is therefore intentionally flexible to allow officials to select the most economically beneficial solution. 

No regulatory changes are envisaged and no big bang change to existing IT infrastructure in the Government is planned. Standards are implemented as part of the lifecycle of a technology refresh and included in procurement specifications – the move to open standards will be a gradual migration.  As the resultant policy is likely to lead to redistribution of spend within the market, and savings in the Government’s IT procurement, we invite further evidence relating to the economic impact of the proposed policy to be submitted as part of the response to questions in this consultation exercise.

An economic case in support of open standards in public procurement is set out in a 2005 report funded under the Sixth Framework Programme of the European Union, managed by the eGovernment Unit of the European Commission’s DG Information Society. An Economic Basis for Open Standards (Ghosh, 2005) also provides empirical evidence based in part on an analysis of actual tenders.


The ICT Futures team in Cabinet Office is responsible for this consultation, which opens for comments on 9 February 2012. The consultation was scheduled to close on 3 May 2012. This has now been extended to Monday, 4 June 2012.



For further information on the content or scope of the consultation, requests for alternate formats or information about events relating to the consultation, please contact:
ServiceDesk on 0845 000 4999 or via servicedesk@cabinet-office.gsi.gov.uk