Feeds

UK.gov coder defines open standards: 'A lot like porn'

If you can think of it, there's an open standard of it?

Intelligent flash storage arrays

TransferSummit As the government works on drawing up yet another definition for open standards, the man in charge of the Cabinet Office's team of IT coders is keen to talk about a future where all government tech is based on, well, open standards.

On the current definition of open standards, Mark O'Neill – who was speaking at the open source TransferSummit event in Oxford – said:

"It's a lot like pornography: you know it when you see it."

Mark O'Neill, who heads up the Cabinet Office skunkworks group, said a budget for the team's next phase of work had been signed off.

So far the skunkworks talent pool has cost £400,000.

Now O'Neill is keen to get venture capitalists to provide funding for future public sector projects.

He admitted that VCs aren't interested in investing in government projects because, they say, the market isn't open enough.

O'Neill said the recently launched e-petitions website created by his skunkworks team was an example of how government projects should operate in the future.

He added that the site has had 3.8 million visitors, 20 million page views, 16,000 petitions and 1.5 million signatures at a cost of £80,000 to the taxpayer.

"At peak it gets as much traffic as Directgov," he explained.

Last month, at launch, the site was marred by downtime. Despite that, O'Neill said the project has proved a success.

He said the open source code used for the e-petitions website would be released soon.

But the skunkworks team is a very small part of Big Government, and the fact that O'Neill is calling on private funding may leave his team's work open to criticism that it is just a Cabinet Office vanity project, bereft of government investment.

O'Neill, who is not shy of referring to taxpayers as "customers", said that the procurement process within government can be a bit like asking for a beef sandwich and then being given a cow.

He said few people talked to each other about government IT. "Everyone’s trapped in their own little silo," he added.

On finding cash for IT projects, O'Neill claimed that government needed "to change its relationship with the market. Procurement is not always the right answer. There are other ways of engaging the market."

He admitted that the Cabinet Office knows where the problems are, but said convincing people across government to change remained a huge challenge.

One member of the audience noted that the skunkworks team lacked money, faced vendor lock-in and was simply "tinkering at the edges" with its projects.

"We have a group of ministers who are willing to say ‘you know what, they’re having a laugh’. They're willing to challenge contracts and break them," claimed O'Neill. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.