U.K. Government unveils IT strategy with open source

The government has launched a strategy for cutting public spending on government ICT by “millions of pounds through cutting duplication and waste”, and promising much more use of open source software.

The Government ICT Strategy, launched by minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude today sets out how government will “adopt the right methods, policies and skills to ensure that its ICT supports efficient public services”.

“Where appropriate, the government will procure open source solutions. When used in conjunction with compulsory open standards, open source presents significant opportunities for the design and delivery of interoperable solutions,” the strategy document said.

In 2008/09, the public sector spent over £16bn on ICT. As part of the strategy to cut this amount of spending, “leading digital expert” Tom Loosemore has been appointed by the government to lead work on a prototype for a single government web domain, as recommended by government digital champion Martha Lane-Fox.

Tom Loosemore was formerly the head of 4iP and a digital media strategy adviser at Ofcom. He launched the websites UpMyStreet.com and TheyWorkforYou.com.

Maude said, “For too long, government has wasted vast amounts of money on ineffective and duplicate IT systems. “We will cut out duplication and wastage by sharing more of our assets across government and using common systems.

“We will also end the oligopoly of big business supplying government IT by breaking down contracts into smaller, more flexible projects. This will open up the market to SMEs and new providers.”

The ICT strategy commits the government to:

-Reduce the cost of using data centres by 35 percent over five years

-Move away from “big bang solutions” delivered by the same large suppliers to a greater number of smaller and agile projects

-Publish details of government contracts and reduce bureaucracy and costs, so that new providers and SMEs have a better opportunity to win government ICT contracts

-Share and reuse ICT solutions and services via a common ICT infrastructure, an ICT asset register and fully online applications store

-Enable interoperable ICT by using common and open standards

John Higgins, director general of Intellect, the trade association for the UK’s technology industry said, “UK taxpayers should expect the best from their public services, and this strategy provides a clear direction for how technology can help deliver better services for less.

“The technology industry is fully behind this strategy and we are committed to working collectively with the government to turn it into reality.

The strategy commits to:

-Publish a toolkit for government procurers on best practice for evaluating the use of open source software

-Establish groups to educate, promote and facilitate the technical and cultural change needed to increase the use of open source software across government

-Establish the common technology components to enable smaller, more flexible projects that can be replicated from one department to another

-Identify a pilot “agile” project within each department and create a “virtual centre of excellence” across government and the private sector that can enable fast start-up and mobilisation for such projects

-Create a programme to use and develop talent amongst civil servants in the field of ICT

-Require “senior responsible officers” to stay in post until an appropriate break in the ICT programme or project life to reduce the risk of project failure

On reducing ICT costs the government has already demanded that major IT suppliers sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU), committing them to work with the government to help reduce the costs of existing IT contracts. Most of the large suppliers have already done so.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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