Open Source, Open Standards and ReUse: Government Action Plan?

Yes, actually there is a document called “Open Source, Open Standards and ReUse: Government Action Plan“. This is the latest (Jan 27th 2010) statement from central government on the topic; previously an Open Source policy was hatched in 2004.

Really the document should be called “Open Source in ICT Procurement: Government Action Plan” as Open Standards get relatively little mention. Indeed, it would have been a more clear communication  if it had stuck to this scope. Having said this, there is evidence of a clear and purposeful approach. Here are a few snippets that I thought worthy of mention…

The Government will expect those putting forward IT solutions to develop where necessary a suitable mix of open source and proprietary products to ensure that the best possible overall solution can be considered. Vendors will be required to provide evidence of this during a procurement exercise. Where no evidence exists in a bid that full consideration has been given to open source products, the bid will be considered non compliant and is likely to be removed from the tender process.

“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 reusing of common components between different lines of business.”

“We have clarified that we expect all software licences to be purchased on the basis of reuse across the public sector, regardless of the service environment it is operating within. This means that when we launch the Government Cloud, there will be no additional cost to the public sector of transferring licences into the Cloud.”

These, and much else in the document, show a clear focus on saving public money in the medium to long term. Great! The actions seem realistic from the point of view of implementation by public administrators. It will take some time but they seem to be pointing in the right direction and committed to fair comparison of OSS vs proprietary software.

There are also a number of references to “Open Source techniques and culture”. These deserve a “D: good effort” to my mind and are rher more challenging for government, civil servants etc. From my experience, Open Source culture and public administration culture (especially in central government) are not particularly close. That’s just the way it is and I’m glad that culture change isn’t the priority in this document. To be fair, they are trying and making some progress but I’m not expecting open email reflectors – e.g. Apache Foundation – to be anything but highly unusual and little things give it away such as the absence of any licence or IP assertion on the document, let alone a Creative Commons or GNU Copyleft licence.

In spite of the above qualifications: ‘good effort HMG CIO Council, keep at it!’ And in the medium term, there are some clear opportunities for open-minded suppliers who understand how to work with OSS in their portfolio.

There is also the Government ICT Strategy, which is the umbrella for the document I am referring to above. This includes lovely names such as the “G-Cloud” (government cloud) and “G-AS” (applications store) but I’ve not digested the content yet…