UK government goes open source

Thought this might interest some D*I*Y*P members. The BBC is reporting that the UK government has decided it should not be tied into proprietary software but embrace open source technology and its goals generally. Who'd have thought it?


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Read that this morning

I read that this morning and was pretty excited about it. I would love to see Linux based OS's take over everyday use here in the US. The only thing preventing me from going to an Open Source OS on all my computers is that I am not a tekkie and the programs most uniformly used... Word, Excel, Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator... I am not sure how to make work or if it is even possible to do with and OS like Ubuntu. Although I have heard of something called Wine that can make all that software usable with and open source package but, once again, I am not a tekkie.


Something other

The Point of OSS is to provide something other than all that proprietary stuff--all of it. Office has Photoshop has Gimp. Illustrator has Inkscape, and InDesign has.... well, .... nothing. And that's one problem with OpenSource. There are big holes where it lacks. And even where there are apps (Gimp, OOo) there are sometimes gaps between what the OSS can do, and what the commercial apps are capable. of. Case in point is InDesign. There are apps, but they are like drawing with burnt sticks on a cave wall in comparison. Another area of lack for Linux is video editing. And there's nothing to touch Keynote.

Not, mind you, that Linux can't fulfill the bulk of the needs for the bulk of the people. If all you do is web and email, with a smattering of other things, Linux is really well-suited to your needs. It is stable, simple to use, free of malware, and cheap--and even better, throw it onto your 5-10 yr old computer, and you can save money on the hardware.

And with governments climbing on board, I expect that we can see further advancements in the OSS software front. You don't need the expensive apps, unless you are a pro, or accustomed to them, and unwilling or unable to learn the new ways. (Or you are in love with the Mac OS and software) ;-)


Not a surprise..


The UK government was the first to pull together a set of best practices for IT that encompass more than just their own viewpoint. Take a look at ITIL.

Based on that previous bit of living history, it doesn't really surprise me that they're moving in a new direction with software. Clearly they are thinking about more than just how to keep X running for now..


Total Surprise or I Wish That That Were True

The UK government was the first to pull together a set of best practices for IT that encompass more than just their own viewpoint. Take a look at ITIL.

As a Brit who works/worked in IT for the last 35 years, including a period of time as a consultant bidding into government and governmental-related organisations where the presumptions was always "it must run on Windows"!, I simply do not believe that statement. For while there may be some government sponspored "best practices" in existence the one organsiation that seems to ignore them every single time a contract comes about is HMG itself.

Current "best practice" examples are the fiasco known as putting the 1900 census on the web; a system implemented by a company that was once a division of the MoD but someone privatised it. It failed within minutes of the launch.

Or an even more recent "success" is the common patient record system being rolled out across the National Health Service. Rolled out like a dog on a carpet more like. It's slow, ponderous, and has reduced the effectiveness of the medical staff that it was meant to assist.

Practically all local governemnt systems are written with the expectation that us British income and council tax payers are going to be stupid enough to use Internet Explorer. (I've had that argument with my local council and their idiocy of using a Windows only system for disseminating planning applications. And I keep meaning to issue an FOI request to find out just how much money they are wasting on Windozey licences.)

Pretty much every UK government IT project in the last 30 years has overrun and been over budget. And I don't mean slightly. I mean by huge margins and huge amounts.

Another "best practice" arising from central government IT gurus is the PRINCE project management methodology. As it's being used on the above examples one can easily get an idea of how much "best practice" there really is in it.

The examplar for governmental use of OSS is the Brazilian governemt. They've been open sourced for many years; at least 2001. Various local councils and government departments in Germany have a non-Windows policy; if it ain't open source they ain;t having it. India may already be doing the same thing; open source or nothing.

When the British government really rolls out open source software in more than name-only then maybe just maybe I'll be more upbeat; until that time I suspect that this is nothing more than grandstanding by an junior official.