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An initiative to inform council IT buying decisions is launched today.

The new scheme entitled Certified Open aims to assess the degree of "openness" of a suppliers' products, services and staff.Certified Open logo Certified Open will be launched with a kitemark that will make is easier for buyers to identify "open" companies.

The kitemark is based on a self-assessment approach where suppliers will be able to grade themselves "gold", "silver" or "bronze" depending on their level of compliance with openness standards.

It will define a product's potential for integration and interoperability with other products and platforms, and gauge the level of risk for the buyer to technology "lock-in."

It will also provide a benchmark for the quality of IT products, services and skills offered.

Once compliance is achieved, suppliers will be able to promote themselves to the market using Certified Open branding.

OpenForum Europe and the Institute of IT Training have been developing Certified Open since June last year and have undertaken discussions with local authorities and major IT suppliers to help shape the scheme.

The next three months after launch will be a process of bedding the scheme in after which it is hoped both private sector companies and local councils will begin to sign up and make use of the initiative.

Speaking to eGov monitor at the launch, Graham Taylor, Director of OpenForum Europe, said: "Public sector organisations have traditionally lock themselves into proprietary solutions. However, they now recognise the need to move to an open framework particularly in light of the government's transformational and shared services agenda.

"We have made significant efforts to communicate to both suppliers and local authorities that this scheme is a framework for both proprietary and open source providers to work together to help the public sector deliver change and innovation."

Alan Bellinger, Business Development Director at the Institute of IT Training also stressed the importance of the initiative in address the skills gap. There is little point in adopting a mixed software economy using both open source and proprietary software if an organisation does not have the staff with the skills to support it.

Development of skills can be managed by using the Certified Open SkillsTracker – a web-based skills assessment tool which maps certifications, qualifications and courses against the Certified Open framework, enabling any specifier, recruiter or supplier to evaluate an individual’s IT skills.

Certified Open SkillsTracker is based on the same approach to training used by IITT for the e-GIF Accreditation Authority.

Certified Open is being piloted within UK local government and is being further developed under TOF-E, the consortium project part funded under the European Commission's eTEN programme, with a plan to roll out across Europe later in 2006.

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eGov monitor Weekly is a free e-newsletter covering developments in UK eGovernment and public sector IT over the last seven days. To register go here.

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