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UK gov backs £1m blueprint for open source switchers

Local government seizes the initiative

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The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

The UK government has announced funding for a 'third force' open source migration project. A group of local authorities led by Rossendale has won £502,500 of matched funding (i.e. the project is worth double that) for an examination of "the issues associated with migration to Open Source," involving a justification of and implementation of open source in three English local authorities, and the production of a report.

So effectively the project intends to use a measure of real life deployment to produce a blueprint for the migration of open source in local government - this is not a drill. Aside from that point, the project is highly significant for a number of reasons. The Office of Government Commerce has two groups of trials going on from Sun and IBM, but these are Sun and IBM funded, while this is the first serious effort funded by government as an independent study.

It's also ground-up, whereas the OGC studies are pretty much top-down. The funding comes from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's e-Innovations programme, which announced a list of winning projects yesterday. The Rossendale-led project won the largest sum by a substantial margin. Among the local authorities involved are, The Register understands, West Sussex, Havering, Camden and Newham.

Newham recently agreed to stay with Microsoft after spending some months poised on the brink of an open source defection, so perhaps Microsoft UK might now legitimately query the long-term utility of the deployment of strong money in such circumstances. Also in the department of strange coincidences we have the consultancy involved in the successful bid - none other than Netproject, the outfit that prototyped the open source system for Newham.

This means that Netproject's Eddie Bleasdale has won the independent, government-funded study he's been lobbying hard for, and that the project is able to start with something that was sufficiently battle-ready to be approved in principle by Newham last year. So it's dangerous, and Microsoft, and Sun and IBM look like they have serious competition in UK local government.

There are a couple of other interesting looking projects in the e-Innovations awards list, although in several other cases we fear we detect a whiff of happy-clappy dotcommery. Hammersmith and Fulham is trialing a transponder-based parking system, which could have longer-term lessons for road-pricing and traffic management schemes, and there are one or two identity-related projects that could produce interesting results. And Newham has its own independent project too - RegenTV "will take UK’s most advanced Internet Protocol Television (ipTV) service and convert it into an Open Source product and service model that can be deployed on scaleable basis." Ungrateful baggages, if you ask us... ®

Related links

ODM awards announcement
Microsoft, Sun, IBM and the war for government desktops
Gates to meet Brown, OGC and NHS chiefs - Sun, OSS in crosshairs?
Savage discounts from MS flush OSS desktop from London council

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