Open source policy: back where we started

It’s good to see the coordinated publication of departments’ responses to the Programme For Government exercise – including the Cabinet Office’s reponse on government transparency, which also covered the use of open source software:

We are committed to the use of open standards and recognise that open source software offers government the opportunity of lower procurement prices, increased interoperability and easier integration. The use of open standards can also provide freedom from vendor lock in. In September 2010, we will publish Guidance for Procurers. This guidance will ensure that new IT procurements conducted by Government, evaluate both open source and proprietary software solutions, and select the option offering best value for money.

Nothing much to get excited about, to be honest. I suppose it’s nice to see an acknowledgement of ‘the opportunity’ of achieving benefits. But it’s a little disappointing that it should close with a flat statement about evaluating both proprietary and open-source on ‘best value for money’ grounds alone – which leaves us right back where we started. I note there’s no reference the Maude statement, back in June, about departmental websites using open source ‘whenever possible’.

3 thoughts on “Open source policy: back where we started”

  1. It’s not just about websites Simon. Sometimes interop with proprietary is much more cost effective than OSS. If authentication environment is AD then there are significant interop challenges in single sign-on using OSS. Not insurmountable but may push VfM towards proprietary.
    Having said that the landscape is changing all the time. Would be interested in others’ experiences.

  2. Open source is not necessarily good, or bad. So value for money would be a reasonable measure. How that’s calclulated is questionable though.
    In a lot of cases, on bigger systems, you need to be looking 2 or 3 years down the track, at least ‘will my cool open source tech. still be around then ? will anybody know how it works at that point ?’.
    It’s not just a case of saying ‘open source good, proprietary bad’ since the cost of development on open source can often be higher even if the product is ‘free’. Like John, I’m not necessarily talking about Web-CMSs here.

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