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FOSS vendors lick chops over ConLib IT plans

'OpenOffice can save UK from doing a Greece'

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But will it be Google or open source vendors wot won it?

“Both parties' technology manifestos have differed in terms of the degree of implementing the 'level playing field' for both open source and proprietary vendors. Whilst they have both acknowledged the contribution towards public savings that can be brought about by the increased use of open source software, only the Conservatives actually outlined some practical steps towards opening up the public procurement process,” said Shine.

“For example, one such proposed measure would be the public availability of tender documents, which would enable smaller open source companies to bid for public IT contracts. In effect, such simple policies would be the key for public IT systems to gradually break free from proprietary vendor lock-in and consequently save a substantial amount of taxpayers' money."

However, reaching a consensus within the ConLib love-in could yet prove to be a stumbling block, especially given that Nick Clegg’s party didn’t go into the kind of detail that the Tories did in their manifesto about what money should be spent, or indeed held back, on IT projects under the new administration.

In reality, UK.gov probably won’t be unpicking IT policies left in place by the previous government all that much. Instead it will be trying to deliver on some of the promises already pledged in January’s open source policy tweakage, which according to the Sirius Corporation’s Mark Taylor “looked great on paper” but lacked any real commitment for the former government to get the job done.

“It is my opinion that the new government has a genuine and sincere interest in open source and this will now be reflected in both policy and action,” Taylor told El Reg.

“We do not even need to posit that there is ideological buy-in for this. The reality of the situation is that with a pressing need to cut the £163bn deficit, and central government ICT spending exceeding £14.5bn per annum, there is a compelling case to slash waste in the ICT area and open source fits the bill,” he said.

Taylor labelled the previous government's IT spending record as being "absurdly wasteful" thereby leaving an "easy win" for the new administration to make cuts and save money for the British taxpayer.

"I expect to see the new government to push strongly for the three opens - 'open data', 'open standards' and 'open source' - and in this order," opined Taylor. "Councils like Windsor and Maidenhead are already putting details of all spending online and in searchable form, this will spread."

But it's not going to be an entirely easy process to bring more open source software into government, admitted Taylor.

"I know that one of the blockers for the spread of open source, and especially projects like Open Office on the desktop, is the huge number of existing public sector applications locked into proprietary office formats.

"Pushing for, or even insisting on, open standards in this area will open up competition and bring down costs, not to mention paving the way for much wider adoption of Open Office in the UK."

An optimistic Taylor is also convinced that the new government will stick to its promise to reduce the size of IT projects, making it easier for smaller software vendors to compete for contracts.

That's not to say that Microsoft, which has recently been defensive about its relevance in government IT procurement, will necessarily be an high-profile victim of deep cost cuts in Whitehall.

At the same time he expects the David Cameron-led UK.gov to "outsource some fairly hefty chunks of IT" that could ironically open the door for the likes of Google, which is of course a tech multinational that the Tories had a cosy pre-election relationship with. And presumably that particular love-in hasn't changed now that Cameron occupies Number 10. ®

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