Yep – in typical fashion, even the government’s tacit admission that it was behind the curve on open source was released late.
The press release/statement/apology – Government levels the playing field for open source – wasn’t sent out from the Ministry of Truth until at least 7.00pm – when most reporters are tucked up in the nearest hostelry.
And what about that headline – “levels the playing field’ – that seems to imply that until now the government has been quite happy with uneven playing field when it comes to procuring anything but proprietary technology but I might be being unfair.
Interestingly though the release also states that “major players in the IT industry now support the use of Open Standards”. For major players basically read Microsoft as I am not sure what other major players have recently stumbled over this open source thing: IBM, HP, Dell – have all been supporting Linux (to some degree or other) for years.
Anyway, better late than passed-over-in-favour-of-a -reduced-price-which-quickly-becomes-lock-in, I guess.
The timing is also interesting – is it down to open source reaching critical mass? Or could it be something to do with the fact that the government has given all our money to bankers and can no longer afford to throw money at whichever proprietary solutions EDS thinks is best?
Minister for Digital Engagement (what sort of job title is that??? Does that mean he can marry two computers that are very much in love), Tom Watson clearly thinks that open source can save the government some cash: “Open Source software is a not a cure-all remedy and is not the only solution to IT questions. However, by levelling the playing field and allowing Open Source to be as competitive as possible we can ensure that taxpayers get maximum value for money from Government IT, something that is more important than ever during the worldwide financial climate”
However he won’t actually goes as far as to say its a superior development model or anything that positive at all. The whole statement reads more like “It could save us a few quid and everyone is doing it so shucks I guess we should too”
Anyways the governments approach is based around three ideas – (three – count’em – not one, not two but three! – Fear, surprise and ruthless efficiency)
There are three aspects to the new policy:
Open Source software: the policy includes 10 actions that will actively help make sure the best possible, best value for money software solutions are put forward for tenders, be they Open Source or propriety products.
Open Standards: the policy contains an explicit reference to Open Standards, ensuring systems are inter-operable and avoiding getting locked into a particular product where possible. Re-use: the Government will look to re-use what it has already bought, with successful solutions being made available across Government.
So there you go – that’s that open source thing taken care off. Tune in next week when the government decides that this Interwebby thing might actually be useful.