The UK government is to move to using open-source software in order to cut costs and halt an “oligopoly” in the IT market.
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude is reportedly set to outline plans to move to free productivity software such as OpenOffice and Google Docs instead of paid products like Microsoft Office while speaking at a cross-government event later today (January 29th).
The move could save millions, as over £200 million has been spent on Microsoft’s ubiquitous software suite in the last three years.
"We know the best technology and digital ideas often come from small businesses but too often in the past they were excluded from government work,” Maude will explain.
"In the civil service there was a sense that if you hired a big multi-national, who everyone knew the name of, you’d never be fired.”
"We weren’t just missing out on innovation, we were paying top dollar for yesterday’s technology."
Expanding the selection of programmes used will also help to break a forming “oligopoly” among suppliers, Maude is expected to argue.
"The software we use in government is still supplied by just a few large companies. A tiny oligopoly dominates the marketplace,” he will state.
"I want to see a greater range of software used, so civil servants have access to the information they need and can get their work done without having to buy a particular brand of software.”
"In the first instance, this will help departments to do something as simple as share documents with each other more easily. But it will also make it easier for the public to use and share government information. “
“We have been talking to users about the problems they face when they read or work with our documents – and we have been inviting ideas from experts on how to solve these challenges."
"Technical standards for document formats may not sound like the first shot in a revolution […] but be in no doubt: the adoption of compulsory standards in government threatens to break open Whitehall’s lock-in to proprietary formats. In turn we will open the door for a host of other software providers."