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UK Government Boosts Open Source Adoption 106

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the here-comes-the-big-discount-offer-from-microsoft dept.
Cameron Logie writes "The UK Government has today announced full backing for greater adoption of Open Source solutions in the public sector. According to the article at the BBC News site, 'Government departments will be required to adopt open source software when "there is no significant overall cost difference between open and non-open source products" because of its "inherent flexibility."'"
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UK Government Boosts Open Source Adoption

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  • Finally is someone opening their eyes? Cheers,
  • by Colin Smith (2679) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @10:00AM (#26981153)

    So that they can give it to the poor destitute [independent.co.uk] W^HBankers.

     

  • I meant "Is someone opening the eyes of the people which run this country"... Cheers again,
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sakdoctor (1087155)

      when "there is no significant overall cost difference between open and non-open source products"

      Damn lies and statistics can be used to prove that open source is more expensive, then it doesn't get adopted.

      • I'm guessing that "getthefacts.co.uk" would be a good domain to squat right about now...
      • by hedwards (940851)

        Indeed, and unfortunately that is all to common of a problem. Unfortunately costs of using software are quite like MPG ratings. Real world use can and will vary from estimates.

        That's not to say that open source is as over hyped as the plug in hybrids, but it would have been a better idea to fix the regulatory environment so that there's fair competition.

      • when "there is no significant overall cost difference between open and non-open source products"

        Damn lies and statistics can be used to prove that open source is more expensive, then it doesn't get adopted.

        Rather, that clause will be used to justify buying the more expensive non-open source...

      • Public servants normally avoid creating those damn lies and statics. That is because creating such things lead to delays and lots of work. One can divide public servants on mostly two classes, one that wants to get things done, and those hate delays, and another that wants to avoid work, they don't like (tada!) extra work.

        Now, there is a minority that get bought by software vendors, but this change will quite likely have a lot of impact despite them.

  • YES! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @10:03AM (#26981189)

    The benefits of open source over closed source are obvious!

    We can now look forward to a more community driven approach to oppression.

    • by jandersen (462034)

      We can now look forward to a more community driven approach to oppression.

      The sad thing is that so much oppression is actually community driven - perhaps far more than the case where the government oppresses the people. It's even got a name:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jante_law [wikipedia.org]

  • Clarity needed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by commodore64_love (1445365) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @10:04AM (#26981191) Journal

    >>>"if there is no significant overall cost difference between open and non-open source products"

    So does that mean if MS Office costs $200, but OpenOffice costs $0, then the government employees can't adopt OpenOffice because there's a cost difference?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sakdoctor (1087155)

      TFA words it differently: "when it delivers best value for money"

      It still won't be cheaper, because of the costs of retraining every last government employee, including the retarded ones, to use the new software.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by socsoc (1116769)
        Easier than training them to use Office 07. All my younger new hires get OOo and they work fine with it once they realize possible hangups over file formats.
        • by jimicus (737525)

          This is politics. They'll happily accept the Latest! New! version of office with zero retraining but give them anything that's not Office and they'll demand £hundreds worth of training per user.

          • Re:Clarity needed (Score:4, Interesting)

            by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @10:51AM (#26981699) Journal
            I once had a user request training after their old keyboard was replaced with a new one. I wish I were joking.
            • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

              by oever (233119)

              Not everyone enjoys Dvorak.

            • by jimicus (737525)

              I once had a user request training after their old keyboard was replaced with a new one. I wish I were joking.

              Sounds like someone just looking for an excuse to avoid doing any work. There's someone like that in a lot companies of any size.

              • by Techman83 (949264)
                That really is a big part of the problem. People wanted Outlook/Exchange here because "Groupwise was too hard", but the funny thing is we spend more time now "Training" the same people on this product that is "so much better" and we actually get more complaints! There is workflow functionality that is just not there in Outlook or if the feature is there it is that hard to use people don't bother.

                It really astounds me and boggles my mind. But I don't pay the bills and now we send most email problems out to
                • That really is a big part of the problem. People wanted Outlook/Exchange here because "Groupwise was too hard", but the funny thing is we spend more time now "Training" the same people on this product that is "so much better" and we actually get more complaints!

                  Well, mileage varies for everyone. I hated and loathed Groupwise and I'm very happy now that we've moved to Outlook 07. It IS different and it made me bang my head against the keyboard the first day I tried to change some email's sensitivity from normal to personal.

                  Other than that I didn't hear a single soul complain because whatever they use works pretty much the same.

          • by hedwards (940851)

            So, in other words it'd be a cost savings over the hundreds of thousands necessary to retrain workers to use newer versions of MS Office.

            Kidding aside, OOo requires less retraining than that previous upgrade. The one that decided to completely rearrange the interface hiding things in new and entirely unintuitive places. _I_ had a hard time figuring out where everything went, and I hardly ever have that sort of trouble.

      • It still won't be cheaper, because of the costs of retraining every last government employee, including the retarded ones, to use the new software.

        While switching from proprietary software to open source software does have retraining as a cost, so does upgrading proprietary software.

        Falcon

    • Re:Clarity needed (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TheNinjaroach (878876) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @10:34AM (#26981485)

      So does that mean if MS Office costs $200, but OpenOffice costs $0, then the government employees can't adopt OpenOffice because there's a cost difference?

      Deploying any piece of software requires proper planning, configuration, infrastructure and training. Even free software costs money to own, hence the 'overall cost' they refer to. This is a good thing though, it's what keeps us employed even though the software is 'free.'

  • by mangu (126918) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @10:05AM (#26981215)

    FTA:

    Government departments will be required to adopt open source software when "there is no significant overall cost difference between open and non-open source products" because of its "inherent flexibility".

    The problem is that the "overall cost" depends on how much marketing $$$ [wikipedia.org] is thrown in.

    • by Shrike82 (1471633)
      Perhaps "cost" refers not just to money, but time and effort required in possibly changing existing procedures, and incompatibilities that might become problems when dealing with other organisations and non open-source systems.
    • by PhilHibbs (4537)

      I think that statement is being widely misinterpreted. I interpret the rules like this:

      1. Use whichever is most cost-effective (presumably including re-training costs for switching away from MS products)
      2. Where there isn't a major difference in cost-effectiveness, prefer OSS anyway due to inherent flexibility

  • Every software sales goon is busy fabricating reports which show significant cost difference between using their products and using Free products.

  • by ledow (319597)

    Spin... tell me when a viable open-source project actually makes a big *official* splash into anything approaching a UK government system. Various schools have been trying it for years on their own and never got anywhere because it's always seen as "nice" but then nothing ever happens further and money is still poured into Microsoft's wallet every day. The other IT projects run the UK government are a farce - starting with the NHS computerisation, through to the systems used for the police national comput

    • I would seriously consider emigrating to a country that treated its IT systems correctly and did things like this when they were needed. I haven't seen it happen yet, though.

      I would serious consider moving out of a country with 1 CCTV camera for every 14 people before I worried about how they treated their IT systems.

      • Repeat after me...

        There is no right to privacy in a public place.
        • by pmarini (989354)
          why are there doors in public toilets then ?

          (sorry for feeding the off-topic)
        • Just because there's no right to privacy in a public place doesn't mean that I have to like being taped. Nor does it mean that I have to stay in the country, city, county, business, or any other place that I'm being taped.

          The remedy would be to leave, and that is exactly what I'm proposing.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          That claim is true in a narrow sense; but annoyingly misleading. "I see you, you see me, we both depend on memory" public spaces are a whole different animal from "I don't see you, your cameras see me, and whatever happens is indexed and recorded for who knows how long" public spaces.

          Small scale, socially driven, symmetric transparency vs. large scale, technologically sophisticated asymmetric transparency. "Public Space" has never meant "Panopticon", and anybody who wants to make it so is pushing a truly
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Addendum:

          I'm sorry, I don't have the figures, but I'd rather live in a country where the police are rarely seen, and when they are they act with (relative) prudence, instead of like drunken cowboys.

          I'd also prefer to live in a country where they don't incarcerate 1/8 of all black males under the age of 30 [wsws.org], or detain people without charge indefinitely [webcitation.org].

          Those topics are far more important to me than some cameras placed in public places.
          • So the conclusion is, mostly, avoid English-speaking countries, then?
          • by nschubach (922175)

            I hate when people assume that all those black males under 30 are perfectly innocent or that what they did was somehow justified by their imagined oppression...

            • I hate when people assume that all those black males under 30 are perfectly innocent or that what they did was somehow justified by their imagined oppression...

              I hate it when people assume most of the prison population in the US are violent criminals when in fact the largest number of people are in prison for non-violent drug offenses. Violent criminals are set free early so someone caught possessing drugs can be put away for 20 years to life.

              Falcon

            • by Leynos (172919)

              Maybe, maybe not, but when figures like that arise, it's indicative of a problem somewhere along the line. And those figures are highly suggestive of a society more interested in treating the symptoms than the causes.

      • by ledow (319597)

        CCTV cameras don't bother me. The people *watching* them do, but then it's been proven that the CCTV cameras make zero difference to crime even in the big cities (there was an analysis published a while back on the UK systems, in particular London). Therefore, there's zero chance that they will ever affect me in my lifetime, because of factors like the UK not being able to do anything with any flashy technology that it decides to buy.

        Along with that, the majority of those cameras are in private hands, so

        • by LingNoi (1066278)

          Of course they make a difference to crime.

          It's obvious, how do you think they get shop lifters. If you live here you must of at least seen one TV show on CCTV cameras and the crime people do in front of them.

          • by ledow (319597)

            MMmmmmmeeeeehhhh! Wrong. (In the UK at least, I haven't seen the statistics for anywhere else)

            For a start, most cameras are positioned incorrectly and, depending on which law you read, illegally (e.g. overlooking public property like alleyways, streets and roads) and don't display Data Protection Act warnings. Without these, evidence collected from them can easily fall down in court - guess who has the incentive to find problems with the positioning or legality of a CCTV camera? The criminals who get cau

    • by emanem (1356033)
      Germans are doing it (not central gov but local ones). Prolly English will arrive there as well? I'm confident...
    • Re:Spin (Score:4, Interesting)

      by rbanffy (584143) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @10:45AM (#26981625) Homepage Journal

      Many government websites in Brazil are hosted on Zope and Plone (I work as a part-time consultant for one of them). There is an open-source turn-key solution for legislative bodies freely available and used by hundreds of them (it's also Zope-based and I did some consulting for them too). Several huge databases run on PostgreSQL clusters - chances are if you filed a tax report in Brazil, a lot of your data now resides on a PostgreSQL server. As of our last election, all electronic voting ballots ran Linux. With about 120 million inhabitants, any federal agency here is easily the size of a medium country or a huge company.

      That said, there is still a long way to go and a lot of steering to keep us on the right course.

      • by daem0n1x (748565)

        120 millions? Wikipedia says it's 196 millions.

        Abraços de Portugal, irmão. ;-)

        • by rbanffy (584143)

          That number was from the top of my mind. Thanks for the correction.

          You know... It's an awful lot of people to count ;-)

          And thanks for the hugs, brother!

        • There is an once popular music from the 1970 World (soccer) Cup that used that number. Population has grown, but lots of people can only remember the 120 millions.

      • I think I worked with a guy who did a lot of that Zope/Plone work for the Brazilian Senate. FWIW, an Irish company called Propylon (www.propylon.com) does a lot of government projects using open source platforms and standards (a lot of ODFs) for both the Irish government and a few US state legislatures too.
      • "Several huge databases run on PostgreSQL clusters"

        If you look at "Decreto 666/2008" you'll see that it almost guarantees that every government body that manipulates geographical data (who doesn't?) uses PostgreSQL to store it (it doesn't mandate Postgre, but it does mandate data formats that can only be obtained on Postgre or some very expensive specialized DBMS). That is quite a new rule, wait for wider adoption the next years.

        By the way, that is a very interesting number for a good piece of law.

    • Also licensing (Score:4, Interesting)

      by jimicus (737525) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @10:49AM (#26981673)

      I've looked into Microsoft licensing for a number of things in the past and a few of the clauses make for interesting reading.

      Let me preface this by saying I'm in the UK, I've been speaking to MS UK and it's them this information comes from. I have no idea how well these terms would stand up in a court of law or how flexible they are if you've got government-sized budgets but.... if you want an educational license - or, for that matter, one of the more flexible enterprise license schemes, one of the terms of the license is you MUST buy a license for every computer that's physically capable of running the software.

      Every PC, every laptop, even every x86-based Mac.

      Of course you can go down the "Open" licensing route which (AFAIK) has no such rule but while I haven't priced it up, I bet it quickly becomes drastically cheaper not to.

      Suddenly, OpenOffice doesn't look like such a cost saver unless you roll it out to everyone. Nor does Ubuntu.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        one of the terms of the license is you MUST buy a license for every computer that's physically capable of running the software.

        a) Suggest to MS that this clause might interest the European Comissioner for Competition.
        b) Watch said clause disappear as 'an oversight' 'left over from a previous version of the license'.

        • by MoonBuggy (611105)

          Because Microsoft have been shown time and again as a meek and fearful opponent with neither the funding nor the legal expertise to attempt opposing the fair trading offices of major governments.

          Oh, wait...

  • Sounds like decision-making will become less questionable by the openness OSS introduces at several levels: source, formats and price (not necessarily zero, but leaving little room for overspending to factor in kickbacks), to name a few.
    In a perfect world, politicians would now start campaigning and competing to advocate and introduce whatever affordable and sufficiently functional software keeps existing hardware usable even longer, minimizes public spending and allows for the biggest tax cut.;-)

    It woul
    • by jimicus (737525)

      I wouldn't bet on it. The UK government has been making noises both for and against open source every couple of years.

      SOP with these things is that Microsoft send out a few of their top salesmen who then concoct a bunch of figures about how much more expensive open source software is and before you know it the ink will be drying on a contract with Microsoft for many millions of £.

      Anyone who's been in IT any length of time has read these "cost-savings" figures salesmen like to produce - they alm

  • No choice anymore... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @10:41AM (#26981563)

    Todays headlines are the result of *years* of work behind the scenes.

    The UK Opposition party, the Conservatives, are absolutely serious about implementing an Open Source, Open Standards, Open Procurement policy should they win the next election.

    Government departments are increasingly talking about sustainability (ie "we've run out of money") with Becta being the first to actually do something about it (appoint Sirius as the first and only Open Source company on a Government procurement list).

    There is at least one National Open Source infrastructure project just about to come out of stealth mode, and politicians are smelling some positive press commentary for once.

    This may be an essentially defensive move in the light of George Osborne's recent pronouncements, but it will inevitably lead to real progress in the historically extremely difficult (for Free Software) political scene in the UK.

    • by Alkarismi (48631)

      It is a *fact* that Sirius' appointment has led to a noticeable uptake of Free Software in the Education sector.

      It seems likely that the Becta procurement list appointment is some kind of 'trial run' by UK Gov, and we are likely to see Free Software vendors appearing on other lists.

      It's high time the UK joined the rest of Europe in its rapid uptake of FOSS in across the Public Sector.

  • Coming soon:

    UK government suspects bears s**t in the woods.

  • I recall, just a few years ago, the state of Massachusetts announcing it would consider switching over to Linux. Microsoft quickly deployed the flying corporate propaganda monkeys to spread doubt and mistrust over "untested" software. Britain's a lot bigger than Massachusetts.

    Should be interesting, in any case.

  • I wonder if they will consider the case where an open-source solution does not completely cover the requirements, but the cost of hiring a developer to make it meet those requirements is still less than the cost of the proprietary solution?

    Will they be willing to hire developers to create required features if it is still within the cost limits? Because that would be win-win for everyone.

    (They should consider long-term licensing costs for the proprietary software of course, since in the OSS solution once th

    • Good God no! The last thing we want is our government's idea of what constitutes a good IT company making even more of a hash of OOo.

  • by CustomDesigned (250089) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @12:06PM (#26982611) Homepage Journal

    As a citizen, I don't really care whether my gov (US) uses Microsoft, Mac, Solaris, Linux, or AmigaOS. I *do* care when they publish documents [cbp.gov] I need to work with in an undocumented proprietary format. And no, OOXML doesn't fix that (it only pretends to). Yes, I can get by with Open Office DOC importer for the time being.

    • by aembleton (324527)
      Absolutely. According to the article the government said it would "ensure that the government adopts open standards and uses these to communicate with the citizens and businesses that have adopted open source solutions".

      The next time I get a .doc or .xls then I guess I should be able to demand an open standard. I sure hope so.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is just a press release, it's intended to neutralise [telegraph.co.uk] the Conservatives open source policy announcements. Nothing is actually going to happen.

    Slightly later this afternoon the Government, orchestrated by Tom Watson MP, is planning to slip out an announcement that it will to stop discriminating against open source software in its procurement in an apparent attempt to look hip.

    When George Osborne advocated the change, the Government briefed that open source was bad for security. Most geeks seemed to disag

  • Is that where you get the full DNA of a child prior to adoption?
  • they intend to use it to keep track of all their surveillance activities.
  • The UK government may have the cohesion of slush, but at least they can do one sensible thing...
  • there is no significant overall cost difference between open and non-open source products

    This is a good strategy because all these days Closed source proponents have been advocating there is NO significant overall cost difference between open and non-open source products.

    Open source is about transparency and Governments must accommodate and appreciate transparency wherever possible.

  • Very happy! We need to see more governments and businesses see the benefits of Open Source!
  • I think this is a good idea. It's true that we need to see more governments and businesses see the benefits of Open Source.

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