Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tories Embrace Open Source

I've got a feeling the folk over at Microsoft won't be too happy right now. The Tories have just published a report recommending that the government makes more use of open source software (ie using OpenOffice instead of Microsoft Word), and bans any IT contract worth over £100 million. The report suggests this could save us taxpayers over £650 million a year.

What's interesting about all this is that it shows that the Tories' flirtation with 'tech' over the past couple of years wasn't just a flash in the pan - they're really ploughing ahead with this stuff. This announcement, after all, comes just a day after George Osborne reiterated his commitment to publishing online every item of government spending (interestingly, it was Barack Obama who did the same in the US - check out the US spending transparency website HERE.

I shall leave the technical analysis of all of this to my good friend, Dizzy.

UPDATE: More details HERE on ConHome.


Mr Mr said...

What a good idea.

Colin said...

Great. Now can we make sure they don't go to one of the big consultancies or integrators to implement it?

That would be something worth writing about.

Chris Nicolson said...

Got a link for the report?

Duderooster said...

Why doesn't the Government use free or readily available software like Adobe Acrobat and Acrobat 3D for the Computing For Health scheme. You can even use it to view 3D scans, and the reader is free and used by 95% of the population.
So Mrs Jones can visit her sister in Whitby, and if she falls ill, her doc can parcel her medical records up in a single PDF file, encrypt it, and email it to the local GP, who can read it all in the free viewer.
Savings for the public £20 billion and rising. Cost to each GP or Health trust - negligible

T England. Raised from the dead. said...

pickle said...
"Got a link for the report?"
Here's a link from last year.

Sue said...

There's something about it on Conservative Home

Bardirect said...

Instead of the monstrously sized Adobe why not use Foxit reader, a much smaller freeware program which does exactly the same thing?

Stanto said...

Adobe's software isn't free.
Most systems can't cope with moving around huge files, let alone the users being capable of opening them and identifying what they're seeing.

Duderooster said...

Great! The principle is sound, then, we're just arguing about the means. Adobe isn't free, but the reader is. The Government can buy every medical practitioner a copy and still have lots of change from the £20 billion.
Learning how to extract the files you need, and bundling them together is a doddle, compared to undreamed of realms of complexity currently being put in place in the current bespoke system being cobbled together.

Jon said...

Can I just puff Ubuntu Linux? Highly recommended for all Right-thinking people.

You can download it for nothing and burn it to CD. Then you can run the whole thing from your CD drive to test it out.

If you're happy, install it on your hard disk, where it will coexist with Windows (should you be so unlucky to be using it still). When your computer starts up from cold or hibernation, you can choose which OS to run.

David Boothroyd said...

Some years ago I tried to get Westminster council interested in ways of not having to pay £millions of taxpayers' money to Mr Gates, but got nowhere. But good luck anyway.

(It actually appeared as a separate line on the budget headed "Microsoft licenses")

Sunscreen said...

Hmm. Isn't Rachel Whetstone, former chief of staff to Michael Howard and wife of Steve Hilton, still the global head of communications at Google? Yes, I thought so. Open source indeed.

Ruari C said...

Scottish Executive (sorry, Government) is currently looking at software licensing, and Microsoft will invariably form a large part of that. One of the Scottish Centres of Procurement Expertise has already issued an invitation to tender for Further Education campus software licenses - at least Education normally gets it at rock-bottom prices.

I would be really keen to see an implementation of open source software in the public sector - simply because it would save packets. Most users don't understand how Office 2007 even works anyway, so it isn't like they'd lose functionality.

Bring it on.

Duncan Macdonald said...

I tried suggesting this to my Council Barnet back in April 2007. I didn't get very far as like many Councils, Barnet have tied themselves in with Microsoft to such a degree that getting anyone to think differently is virtually impossible.

Anonymous said...

Please, can we talk about this instead?

Ken Clarke: > " I got rid of the married couples allowance [when I was chancellor] ... I really don't think it's anything to do with politicians whether you [get married], and most of the younger people I know don't seem very keen on it.

My view of Conservatism is that it's not for us to tell you [what to do through] the tax system – my wife didn't put up with me because I was getting £150 by way of tax allowance.

This is social engineering, for God's sake, and when I joined the party we weren't in favour of it. "

I totally agree with Ken Clarke 100% !
Hope Cameron gets it. DC's tax break for married couples is a really crap idea.

JPT said...


Mostly Ordinary said...

So I assume Conservative Central Office is running linux desktops and Open Office?

DespairingLiberal said...

It's hard to escape the Windows/Micro$oft psychology, purely because people are used to it, so they tend to go with what they know. But there is getting to be less and less of a good excuse for public sector to be paying for expensive software from Mr Gates when completely equivalent Open Office and Linux products are available f.o.c. It's only a matter of time.

Open source is also spreading to other arenas like enterprise software of various types (MySQL being a good example) and this is a new area that needs looking at.

Slick salesman still make much of the running with public sector managers, so those advocating using Open Source need to get equally good at selling it. There is still a development/implementation cost in many cases, but there is for commercial software as well, so the savings are very real.

Mostly Ordinary said...

Please let's not pretend two things a) open source = free and b) people aren't already selling it to Government; voice applications, database applications, websphere, oracle, etc all in part run on open source foundations - they also all are rather expensive.

Large IT companies like Dell, Cisco, Sun and IBM are investing heavily in open source to shift more tin and services.

Anonymous said...

If this is reflected in policy under a Tory government, it'll be a good thing. But call me a cynical bastard if you like (I'll take it as a complement), but i am not convinced it will happen.

Moving all the government's office software to Open Office -- and encouraging the private sector to make the switch too -- should be a no-brainer.

Ditto on government PCs: standardize on Ubuntu, it requires far less processor/memory resources than Vista, which means you don't need to upgrade hardware.

A final point: if the Tories are so keen on open source, why did their website switch from BSD to Microsoft Windows at some point between 19 September and 4 October last year?

Martin S said...

Yeah. Open Office.

Almost as good as MS products. Except when it does seriously stupid things like introducing garbage when you are using Blogger, for example.

I like Open Source enough to use it, but it isn't quite as good as it might be. Don't expect too much form it and you'll be fine.

Martin said...

How long before Bill Gates gives us a Microsoft version of Linux full of bugs and patches?

Dual Citizen said...


Linux is not free. If you want the true open source free stuff be prepared for all the bugs and poor support that come with it.

That said, basic stuff can be done with Open Office, and well supported Linux platforms such as Red Hat and SUSE can be a lot cheaper than blind loyalty to Mr. Gates.

Government IT can save money as long as it becomes smarter ...... not that difficult really.