Friday, 11 February 2011

Adoption of Open Source across HM Government events

Further to the 'UK government committed to open source' article linked to on, I received an email invite a couple of days ago to an Open Source Specialist Group (OSSG) event of the British Computer Society. This group considers adoption of open source across HM government. Something seems to be moving. If you´re in the UK and the topic is interesting enough why not attend, I know I´m going. You can read more on The two events are held at BCS offices in Central London.

Tuesday 22nd February 2011, and Tuesday 1st March 2011 both from 1800 to 2100.

These bookable events are free and open to all with buffet and refreshments. To
book a place to attend please contact:

Mark Elkins via

A member of the Home Office IT Team is undertaking research in conjunction with
the Cabinet Office to:
(1) try and understand why Open Source is not represented better across HMG
and the wider public sector, and
(2) identify and address barriers to adoption of Open Source across HMG and
the wider public sector.


1. The Coalition Government believes Open Source Software can
deliver significant short and long term cost savings      across
Government IT.

2. Typical benefits of Open Source include  lower procurement
prices, no license costs, interoperability, easier integration and
customisation, compliance with open technology and data  standards
giving autonomy over your own information and freedom from vendor
lock in.

3. OSS is not currently widely used in Government IT, and the
leading systems integrators for Government  Departments do not
routinely consider open source software for IT solution  options, as
 required by existing HMG ICT policy.

4. There are significant and wide ranging  obstacles to Open
Source in Government. Some of these are lack of  procurement
guidance, resistance from suppliers, concerns about license
obligations and patent issues, and a lack of understanding of open
source  maturity and its development ecosystem.

The debates will focus on (1) understanding the barriers to wider
adoption of Open Source across HMG, and (2) potential solutions to
these barriers.

We will aim to have representatives from major IT suppliers to HMG
 to help us understand the barriers from their perspective, and to
help us understand how well any proposed solutions might work. The
debates should be more a dialogue with the  IT suppliers than amongst
OSS supporters.

Evening Debate 1 – Tuesday 22nd February

1. Supplier Challenge – how can we incentivize the traditional IT suppliers to
consider OSS when evaluation software options?

Suitable OSS is not currently being considered equally  –  why?What are the
disincentives for IT suppliers? In-house skills. New support relationships
with OSS vendors and support companies. Any others?If they do work with OSS,
how can we be sure the cost benefits are passed onto customers?

2. Procurement – how can it be better?
What are the current obstacles? Do the existing contracts and frameworks
discourage OSS – if so, how?

3. OSS Assessment Model – working with IT suppliers
IT suppliers aren’t very open with how they select software as
candidates for evaluation – not sustainable when spending taxpayers
money.We can help make this more transparent by working  with them to
build an assessment model they can sign up to. What would suppliers like
 to include in this assessment ? I have  started a model to de
developed. List of top software  per category  (virtualisation, monitoring,
email, collaboration, etc)  – needs to be maintained to be useful, but
will get the ball rolling in current lack of knowledge.

4. Case Studies – evidence  of  short and long term value for money.
Where are these? Also proven examples  of OSS use in high demand, volume
 or availability applications.

5. Other Ideas – especially for the next debate.

Evening Debate 2 – Tuesday 1st March

1. Security. OSS is insecure compared to commercial software?
By what criteria can we select software to minimise security risks?Does OSS
need a different approach to patching?Can we simply use empirical evidence when
comparing OSS with closed software? Statistics for internet browsers are
common – published vulnerabilities, known exploits, time to fixKey question for
HMG is – all things being equal, open code means vulnerabilities can be
discovered and exploited before there is time to fix

2. Buy-not-Build. Can OSS actually benefit HMG because HMG doesn’t want custom
or re-engineered software?

HMG generally asks IT suppliers to build systems from COTS components and
minimise customisation and re-engineering – it wasn’t want to maintain special
code because of cost and risk. So does a significant benefit of OSS not apply
to HMG?

3. Legal advice for OSS
OSS has some unique legal aspects compared with commercial software –
 where to get advice? Myths around legal obstacles and obligations are
going unchallenged.Patents and liability issues are often raised – resolved by
major OSS suppliers who will shield customers?

4. Long Term Strategy
OSS won’t happen overnight.Should we work backwards from insisting on open
information formats for HMG interactions with the public and other sectors?
This way the use of open standards compliant software filters back into HMG

5. Other Ideas


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