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UK.gov tweaks open source policy small print

Enforce or fall on own sword, warns Ingres

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The UK government has rejigged its open source and open standards software procurement policy, following pressure from OSS vendors last autumn.

Early last year the Cabinet Office revised its rules on public sector open source software purchases, but many OSS players complained that the policy amendments didn’t go far enough.

Others grumbled that the government was failing to police its own rules.

The government published the latest revision to its policy (PDF) today, after it brought in new measures to promote open standards and encourage the reuse of software on 25 February 2009.

Measures outlined in the strategy - which took five years to be overhauled - included an education programme, guidance on procurement from the Chief Information Officers (CIO) Council, headed up by John Suffolk, and assessment of new products. It also aimed to spotlight open standards by ensuring systems were interoperable and avoided product lock-in.

Come last September, some OSS vendors - including Ingres, Red Hat and Alfresco - complained that a lack of enforcement effectively nullified the government’s own rules, thereby making OSS and open standard procurements a rarity rather than the rule. The government hopes that today’s rejig of the “action plan” addresses some of those grumbles.

Cabinet Office minister Angela Smith penned a foreword to the revised paper, which appears to openly attack multinational software makers such as Microsoft and Oracle.

“When Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989, he fought to keep it free for everyone. Since then, not everyone in ICT has displayed quite the same philanthropic spirit and a small number of global organisations dominate,” she said.

“But over the past few years, the people have begun to fight back. Individuals, working together over the internet, can create products that rival and sometimes beat those of giant corporations. The age of Open Source is dawning and Government has embraced it, becoming more innovative, agile and cost-effective.”

The Cabinet Office said that the amendments to the policy didn't represent a "wholesale change" to its February 2009 rules.

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