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back to article FOSS vendors lick chops over ConLib IT plans

In the run-up to the General Election both the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats made positive noises about open source software in their respective manifestos. But now that a coalition government has been formed out of those blue and yellow political camps, will both parties actually stick to the Tories’ pledge of …

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Supply2Gov

Can they PLEASE make supply to gov (the government backed "small" tenders website) FREE

its absurd that we have to pay to access government opportunities from a government site (ok, I know they you can go trawl around depts sites etc, but thats a real PITA)

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Flame

Simple question

How much money do the FOSSers have to help the MPs make the "right" decision.

Yup, thought as much.

Let's be clear. It does not matter which solution is the cheapest, fastest, strongest or anything else. All that matters is which one lets the MPs concerned trouser the most for themselves. That is the ONLY consideration. This is why we are still getting shafted by PFI, why government is still in the thrall of the big consultancies (despite their track records of disaster and corruption), why more and more money is thrown after massively bloated (and failing) projects etc.

The naivety of the FOSS community is staggering. Until you can grant a MP a nice little directorship or place on a committee, you can forget getting anywhere (dinners in the "correct" restaurants are also good).

If anyone thinks for one second that the ConDem coalition will be any less corrupt and self-sering than the Liemore party, then they are an idiot of the absolute highest order.

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Anonymous Coward

so that's alright then

let's let them get away with corruption because there's nothing we can do about it anyway, right?

/sarcasm.

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0

and the options are?

- Stand for a Seat yourself (that sounds funny, and not much fun at the same time)

- Blow up Parliament (hmmm. that didn't go so well last time)

- Expose corrupt politicians (hmmm. The Fourth Estate isn't doing their job there, and it would be a full time one)

- write scathing letters to online IT journals and hope quantum solves the problem :)

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Bronze badge
Stop

TORIES become FOSS vendors before decision is made.

'Tories said they would immediately halt planned IT procurement projects to assess proposals and “ensure that small businesses and open source IT providers are not locked out of the bidding process”.'

So, they are going to make sure there friends companies get chosen, or the companies that they by in to... I guess even for most tories M$ shares are too expensive to buy in bulk.

'But differences of opinion within that alliance over open source software - no matter how minor - may yet affect Tory IT procurement promises...'

You mean differences in shares/company directorships owned by different Tories/Libs may affect IT procurement promises.

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Silver badge

Only if...

Open standards doesn't include that unimplemented Microsoft stooge but instead for documents they specify "open standards, unencumbered by patents or licensing and actually bloody implemented". Or something along those lines.

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MGJ

Pish

What percentage of any of the big disaster projects was the software license? 1% maybe. FOSS makes sense for greenfield sites or where you have lots of technical skills available cheaply. In government which pays buttons for licensed software it makes absloutley no financial sense unless you hide all the training and migration costs for end users, and the money just isnt there for that. What gvt pays for services and change is where the costs are.

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Stop

That's just nonsense.

1) all replacements can be seen as greenfield. Because you can just start to replace a service on a small scale and then scale it up. And for new functionality you should use FLOSS anyway.

2) There is a lot of IT knowledge in some departments. Why not just share? Working with documents is necessary everywhere. So if it works in one place than just copy the solution. Something wich cannot be done cheaply when using proprietary software. But can be done with open source and this is what saves the most money.

3) Retraining has to be done for a move from Office 2003 -> 2007 or 2010 anyway. And those training costs are extremely small compared to what you earn when you kick out a per seat license. You pay licenses per year and train only once! Do the math.

So please stop with the FUD and think a little bit about the possibilities.

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Happy

Training?????

Most places do not retrain their staff in any move from Office versions, or for Windows versions changes. Certainly my experience suggests not in various migrations, so these huge savings can be ignored.

Not so sure there is lots of knowledge on IT systems, many people repeat parrot fashion what they have always done, try getting someone to rewrite a department spreadsheet if there are vb scripts or macros, you would be surprised how many spreadsheets were written years ago when somebody left...

This isn't to say it shouldn't be done, but those are not the reasons to do so. Also many large organisations outsource the desktop, and get charged a fee by the outsourcer per seat, FOSS may arguably cut some costs, but requiring large skill bases in the backend will bump things up.

A sensible coherent proposal is needed, with proper migration plans, by people who know what they are doing, this costs money and most people just don't see the value...

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So..

current system : Microsoft love-in

open source : Google love-in

talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place

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Thumb Down

Title...

"It spoke about creating a more “level playing field” for open source technology in government, and the Tories promised something very similar in their manifesto. They also said they would open up the British government’s IT contracts to small and medium-sized businesses by dividing large technology projects into smaller chunks!"

I don't see and similarity between these two policies at all, (or the need for an exclamation mark?!), quite the contrary...

In terms of open source, this will largely mean the adoption of open office or Google Docs, neither of which can be considered opening the door to small - medium size businesses. If gov departments switch to such cloud services, they need to realise that they are effectively inviting mountain view or Sun in to provide a managed service which is unlikely to reduce overall costs, and certainly doesn't break the monopolies that big buiseness have in public service delivery.

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Anonymous Coward

More stumbling blocks....

Two problems that face Open Source IT Procurement:

1) Security Accreditation - many government IT systems hold sensitive data and as a result need to use software as part of a solution that will ultimately be approved by a CLAS consultant - and although open source could be justified, commercial and political pressures are going to press for the solution that is the most likely to get past the accreditation process.

Until Open Source software is sponsored through the CESG accreditation schemes, IT companies will struggle to use these tools, both for the live solution and on the desktop (i.e development and support).

2) Mindset - there is a lot of brand snobbery that goes on in the IT industry, even if good policies are coming out of whitehall, there will still be technical architects in various IT Consultancies who will profess that Oracle/*other bloated propietary product* is the only to get the system implemented.

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OSC
Linux

First: stop the "upgrade" treadmill, next appreciate your own policies

Central government departments are already evaluating Windows 7, Office 2010, Sharepoint 2010 and so on.

Will someone please explain why they continue to create ever richer lock-in to a single company's products.

If the Conservatives were to fully appreciate the importance of their own words as applied to smart meters everything else would follow (I've posted about this before the election but I can't remember which article so apologies for the re-post.

http://www.conservatives.com/Policy/Where_we_stand/Climate_Change_and_Energy.aspx

"Rebuilding Security" Page 84.

"The surest guarantee of the consumer interest is a fully competitive energy sector in which new and established providers succeed or fail on their ability to provide the best goods and services to their customers. In this respect, we believe that the innovation and interaction that the smart grid will make possible is what will finally transform the energy sector from an industry focused on relationships with policymakers and regulators to one where the customer is king.

A Conservative Government would seek to speed this transition by facilitating new market entry and new sources of investment. This will be achieved in three main ways:

* Open networks - In making decisions on the renewal of transmission and distribution network infrastructure, our priority - as in the case of smart meter roll-out - will be to establish a flexible open platform for ongoing technological and business development.

* Open standards - In establishing common technical and non-technical standards for the industry, our default position will be to play a supporting rather than a directing role. There may, however, be occasions on which direct involvement is necessary. For instance, where governments are involved in agreeing international standards; or if established industry players attempt to use proprietary standards to restrict competition and consumer choice.

* Open markets - Wherever Government influences the shape of markets for smart grid technology and services, they are open the widest range of providers. This means that the measures we enact to rebuild Britain's energy security - such as the capacity guarantee in the electricity market (see chapter 4) or the Green Deal on energy efficiency (see chapter 11) - will be structured to enable smart grid based solutions to compete on equal terms with other options.

Smart grids need smart policy

In chapter 2 we argue that the reform of energy policy must start from the top - by streamlining the machinery of government. The Department of Energy and Climate Change must focus on supporting ministers in their duty to provide a clear strategic direction; the tangled web of agencies through which public investment in clean energy technology is made available will be joined-up into a Green Investment Bank; and the proliferating quangos currently responsible for the execution of energy policy will be rationalised.

This will create an opportunity to equip the machinery of government with the expertise necessary to contribute usefully to the transition from dumb grid to smart grid. This is not because we expect government to make the detailed technical and business decisions that will shape the future of energy in the 21st century, but because we need a government capable of understanding and responding to the needs of the innovators, entrepreneurs and investors who will be making those decisions.

That means learning all the lessons from government's role in the development of other hi-tech infrastructure sectors, above all, our information and communication networks. Whether as a Whitehall department, a facilitator of investment or a policy implementation body, the smart energy enterprises of the 21st century need to have faith in government as a arms-length, objective and, above all, informed source of support.

The energy internet

The technology writer, George Gilder observed that "in every industrial revolution some key factor of production is drastically reduced in cost... relative to the previous cost to achieve that function, the new factor is virtually free."304 In the 21st century, that factor of production is the

processing power and communications bandwidth provided by information technology - where costs per unit are falling at an exponential rate. In this context, the significance of the smart grid is twofold:

* Firstly, it allows us to apply an increasingly abundant resource (IT) to improving the productivity with which we use an increasingly constrained resource (energy).

* Secondly, it represents a breakthrough for our use of IT networks - from the virtual world in which only data was networked to the intelligent networking of physical commodities like energy.

This won't just encompass power grids, but also other utilities such as water and even transportation systems. Bringing intelligence to infrastructure will have game-changing implications - even for those things, which due to their unconnected components, we don't even regard as infrastructure. For instance, the intelligent networking of cars is already underway thanks to the spread of satnav systems, which cut fuel costs by reducing navigational errors and could save their owners even more by incorporating livetraffic information and automatically computing routes to avoid congestion.

Consumers, however, are entitled to ask "where will this all end?" and "who

gets the benefit?" The answer depends on the choice we make as a nation

between two very different models:

* The hyper-bureaucratic model in which IT is used to reinforce top-down power structures, enhancing and extending the control that politicians and their corporate clients have over our lives

* Or the post-bureaucratic model, in which on the basis of intelligently shred information, not top-down control, millions of independent actors freely work together in an endless variety of ways to the benefit of all

With its enthusiasm for ID cards and centralised databases, the current Government has revealed its preference. However, the Conservative vision is very different, one which we will strive to make real in the development of a smart grid that can truly be called an energy internet."

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No, no, no

"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."

Rubbish. The main blocker is that OpenOffice is terrible to use. If government departments switched from MS to OO they'd have to go through extensive retraining (which doesn't exist on the scale of MS Office training) to combat the considerably worse UI and user experience.

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Silver badge
FAIL

And...

...retraining everyone so that they can move from 2003 to 2007 or 2010 (never mind the fashion of the moment, could based apps) will be free?

Sure, training people in FOSS costs; but is also costs proprietary software. Your argument is not valid.

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re "worse UI and user experience"

Really? Worse than that bloody ribbon?

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Training

Indeed the training is free, I've used it in my own company this year and it was all downloadable from Microsoft's website for free. Even hosted it on our intranet for people to use when they wanted.

Even more, if you've got a millions of licenses and SA benefits the public sector has, then you'll just use the free training vouchers microsoft gives you.

Is Open Office going to pay for all that retraining? nope. Is every member of staff going to moan when suddenly if they send a document out of the organisation they work in they have to keep checking its in the right file type? nope.

Yes OO is feasible, and even a good solution for the consumer as it's free and provides as much functionality as what 99% of home users use MS office for, but in the interconnected corporate environment, it just doesn't stick it to have just a local solution anymore, as reflected by MS connected updates to Office 2010, and again this is something else that OO isn't going to offer.

Final thing, but who's going to support all this OO implementation? Sure they're not going to do it for free...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Alastair 7

"If government departments switched from MS to OO they'd have to go through extensive retraining"

Retraining? What makes you think they were ever trained in the first place?

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Gates Horns

The soft money is on status-quo

I'm sure once the check clears and everyone who is anyone has their pockets full of kickback money this will all be forgotten.

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Bronze badge

Greece?

Fond though I am of saying bad things about Microsoft, how exactly does it share the blame for Greece's financial situation?

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Happy

"procurement" of FLOSS

I'm writing a thesis about the "procurement" of floss.

10th of June 2010 you can Google and download it. Title : "How to buy something that is free? Developing design principles grounded in theory and practice, for the inclusion of FLOSS in an organization's tactical procurement of software".

This research is based on actual scientific theory and case studies in a government setting and shows how to introduce FLOSS in a (government) organization.

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Bronze badge

So who is going to pay for.....

All the work it will take to get open source products accredited, and security tested by CESG, they don't do it for free.

The bid I'm doing at the moment wants to use open source, they think it means free, but each time we look, the open source products can't pass the accreditation rules, and it isn't compatible with a lot of the existing infrastructure.

A lot of security rules preclude the use of Open Office, because the products that help Office meet the requirements aren't there. If you want to seamlessly integrate your Office product with your EDRMS, you can't because they all interface to Office.

It's a nice idea, but there are some pretty steepmarket entry requirements.

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WTF?

FUD

"products accredited, and security tested by CESG"... Red Hat has (EAL4+)

"it isn't compatible with a lot of the existing infrastructure." that's in your hands now isn't it? Instead of 'standardizing' on proprietary software and closed standards, you might specify an IT architecture based on open standards and open source.

"you can't because they all interface to Office." Again this is not the fault of OpenOffice. Maybe the EDRMS should use open standards instead. You are free to choose a EDRMS that does.

Start thinking strategically about your software! Your organization depends on it. Why give away the control over such a vital resource? That's asking for trouble in the future!

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Bronze badge
Go

OpenOffice could make a serious difference here

I think OpenOffice could be a massive help to government. When tried the latest version a few weeks back to help my dad out with something, it turned out that the OpenOffice presentation thing, the one that is supposed to be like powerpoint, is absolute rubbish. Impossible to use, incomprehensible in behaviour and simply not worth the effort of involving oneself with.

All of which means that if it was adopted in government, the number of Powerpoint presentations would go right down and everyone could get on with doing useful things instead.

Pretty much a win, I would say!

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Coat

OpenOffice presentation thingy

"the one that is supposed to be like powerpoint, is absolute rubbish. Impossible to use, incomprehensible in behaviour and simply not worth the effort of involving oneself with."

So, it IS exactly like Powerpoint, then?

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Silver badge

Openoffice efficency

The greatest saving with OO is that it doesn't read Powerpoint very well.

Banning Powerpoint saves any organisation $ 1.7 Bn (*)

* - note number entirely made up in the spirit of all Powerpoint presentations

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Foss Systems

Even if you wanted to introduce open system into government, there would a lot of opposition from vested parties in order to allow the status quo to continue. Even common sense issues like replacing internet explorer with something better will still take time. Ask this simple question, what rational was used in order to convince the Royal Navy(RN) to base it's next generation fire control system on Windows 2000? Where as the United States Navy took one look at that operating system and ran to LynxOS. I have to ask myself why did we go for such a strange combination? Was because that somebodies hands were being greased?

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g e
Silver badge

Sounds a bit like

an opening position to negotiate MS price down on the next purchase...

A bit like what BECTA did when they said they could see no reason to upgrade MS Office or even recommend upgrading at all.

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Anonymous Coward

...BECTA RIP

BECTA is living on borrowed time now......that example was one of the few credible moments, probably as they outsourced the thinking.

..also it doesn't effect the licensing costs - schools pay the same highly discounted rate regardless of the version of Office or Windows they use. Even if they ditched MSO for OOO, they'd pay the same since its not a per application deal - hence they are better sticking with the software most quals and teaching materials are now geared towards.

A lot of big companies with massive influence at DCFS are creaming silly money from school's and LEAs, they make Microsoft look almost angelic in that sector. The change of Government will effect this not at all, its will be worse now if anything.

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Usage

In my own experience, UK Government is not against Open Source.

I've just finished up a medium sized government project that is fully Open Source. However, that depended on

a) me knowing enough about Open Source to identify suitable packages

b) being able to make a business case and allay any fears

c) finding suitable development partners and, most importantly,

d) not making the procurement process so onerous that those small, nimble development partners could not afford to take part

That's doable but it needs coordination to make it happen more widely. However, the policy aspirations as they stand are too one-sided. Government should be parasitic on Open Source but should actively contribute.

Departments and agencies need a way to pool expertise so that there's central coordination of -

- suitable Open Source packages matched to business needs

- certified partners (developers, etc)

- Government Cloud hosting for departments not wanting to roll their own

- a process for pushing patches, plugins, enhancements, etc. back into the community

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Go

textbook case, but be aware...

This is actually how it happens in a lot of other places. And the strategy seems to work well.

But please do take care that open source and open standards principles are in your organizations formal IT architecture agreements at the highest level!

You will definitely not be the first to see all their efforts nullified because a large contract, covering more departments has been created by top management. Proprietary vendors these days do not come to a cubicle or even corner office, they kick in the doors to the board of directors or the minister. Also a merger with another department can cause the open source solution to suddenly disappear.

Make sure open source (where possible) and open standards (by default) are mandatory in the IT architecture (eg "any system for document management for such and so document class must be platform independent" and "we standardize on ODF for our internal communication"). That way when ever a big procurement is done, it has to respect this IT architecture. Preferably someone in the top management team is made responsible for compliance with the IT architecture, so it cannot be simply bypassed or disregarded.

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Silver badge

@Foss Systems

>Royal Navy(RN) to base it's next generation fire control system on Windows 2000

Admiral heard it came with free Minesweeper?

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Cargo Cult

I've often believed that government IT is like a Cargo Cult and open source doubly so. Civil servants and MPs sort of understand what they should be able to get out of it, but don't really understand anything.

Prepare your radios made of coconuts.

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Linux

Penguin

Nuff said

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Linux

I can't stand OOo

I tried to write a presentation in OOo the other day and it was a nightmare. I though, fsck that, and went straight back to LaTeX where everything goes where I bloody well tell it to go and everything is the size that I have specified it to be. And before anyone starts, yes - I do think everyone should be forced to use LaTeX, preferably in vi

While giving the open-plan office monkeys open office will save a packet, the real savings come from private cloud-computing (or big PC farms as we used to call them). Grid software is really advanced nowadays. Want to run your calculation, budget forecast, etc etc??? Then click a little button that submits it to the grid, have half of it run in Manchester and the other half run in Newcastle, and get the job back after lunch time. A general rule if you want this sort of thing to work is that everything in the back-end should be running on red hat (or derivative). And before anyone starts, No - I don't think people should be forced to use red hat on their desktops. If you've plugged a mouse into a red hat machine you've made a mistake, if you've submitted a complex job to a rack of red hat machines you've made a good move.

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Anonymous Coward

If google docs get anywhere near our government...

Bombs, explosions, murdered kittens, heads on poles outside number 10. The sheer outrage of letting those s#!ts near government data would be horrifying!

and that would just be my contribution...

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Grenade

the main point should be ..

public data should be held on secure systems where source code is available so as to verify it's security

Windows and Office are not secure, nor verifiable as secure, and aren't likely to be in the near future .. IMO Windows and it's related software ought to have been disqualified for government, financial and medical industry use years ago, and the people's money put into furthering FLOSS and Open Standards.

It's one thing to secure my own Windows machine, quite another to expect government workers to secure large systems of Windows machines.

Did not Peru make these points a few years ago quite well ?

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FAIL

BigLolz

<Waaaah> FOSS is *different* to what we are used to!!

<Waaaail> And we're locked into a proprietary ecosystem!!!

<Sniiiiff> and open standards aren't supported by my vendor!!!!!

They carry on as if OSS is the problem instead of seeing it is the solution. It is inevitable that one day they will have to get off the Microsoft treadmill but they will fight it tooth and nail every step of the way! The've let Microsoft back them into a corner and now it is too hard to get out.

THAT's the problem with so many IT types these days, they are just too damned comfy in their plush furnished prison cells .

Epic Fails to IT folk around the world

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Unhappy

Dream on!

Once some mate of Camerons ( who is in cahoots with big M ) gets whiff the MSOffice subscriptions might be cut back, lots of lobbying and a couple of million later and FOSS is toast!

I love FOSS, but sadly I am a realist and as the saying goes, "Money talks and BS walks!"

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Silver badge

All aboard teh Fail-Train!

Here is a good example of a government transition from Microsoft to FLOSS:

http://limuxwatch.blogspot.com/

Notice that Linux is considerably more expensive than Microsoft:

http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/technology/2003-07-13-microsoft-linux-munich_x.htm

I wonder if these idiots (this particular clique of the British ruling class) will actually be damn fool enough to attempt it (board the same fail-train that Munich is riding.)

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Thumb Down

FLOSS works, just make sure you plan.

Moving to FLOSS does not discharge you from the duty to think about what you are doing. And all the municipalities and government organizations that do, are not in the news.

From the blog post: "- it's really hard to convert to Linux without changing EVERYTHING". This is in practical situations very true and ultimately of course exactly the goal.

Speed is a relative term and depends on what you want to do. It is nowhere written that there is a deadline for FLOSS migrations. Administrators have to be paid anyway. And remember you don't have to buy licenses every 3 years, so basically you can experiment and scale up as long as you want.

Which is also advisable. You start with the parts that can be easily replaced, like CRM, CMS, DMS, file servers, storage etc. And then work your way to the front. And naturally there will be applications that need to be run in a bubble and delivered through a terminal server, even at the very end. But at least you will have cut back the proprietary software by a large amount that way and thus save a lot of money.

In the end you always save money. It only logical since you will not have to pay any licence fees. Instead you invest in people and knowledge and that is never a bad think.

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FOSS, semi FOSS, semi semi Foss, proprietary..all as bad?

Just a thought, most (really) of the Cabinet are 50 something Grammar School boys and girls just like me. It follows that wrt IT they do not have rose tinted spectacles, having lost any delusions about IT long ago, proprietary or open source.

All IT solutions promise 'massive cost savings and improved effeciency' whether they are from proprietary software vendors, open core vendors, fremium vendors or FOSS vendors. I used to work for Mark Taylor's company and I would be very sceptical about a pure FOSS solution's ability to save money, the customisation overheads are enormous.

No, I think the new Goverment will be just plain suspicious and regard all software vendors peddling solutions with a very jaundiced eye..no FOSS breakthrough I am afraid to say...having said that I cant see why anyone wouldnot use Oracle's Open Office..it's free dummies.

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Pint

Get rid of IT completely

Get rid of all Government IT. Scrap all the computers and replace them with filing cabinets and nice pretty girls in flowery dresses to do the filing.

We'd save on IT 'cos there would be no IT. It would be one in the eye to Microsoft and Google.

Security would be better: try leaving a filing cabinet on a train by accident.

There'd be a jobs boost for couriers and the post office who would have to transfer paper around the country.

The building and manufacturing sectors would be helped due to the need for buildings to put the filing cabinets in and the requirement to manufacture more cabinets.

Finally the country would have to produce more pretty girls to fill the flowery dresses and work the filing cabinets and we'd all be for that wouldn't we boys.

You know it makes sense.

The 1950's Party

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FAIL

OK, so I tried it

I haven't used open office for years, so this article prompted me to download it. The idea was I'd use it for a few days and see how it felt, and if I liked it enough I'd think about dumping MS office.

First thing I did was open a 29 meg csv file that one of the trading systems I look after generates daily - oh look, openoffice has the 65k row limit that excel used to have, and it's slower to load files than excel to boot. That instantly renders it no good to me, but out of interest I persisted. I tried a simple autofilter - looks like there are too many discrete values so it won't do them or even open the function properly. So I had a look at pivot tables, tried to generate one against the 65k rows that it had deigned to open and the "data pilot" pivot function won't even run up - just hung for several minutes until I task managered it.

Now I'm a LINUX user at home and I like the principle of open source as much as anyone, but open office failed on the very simplest of tasks for me. There are people I work with who use excel for complex number crunching involving large amounts of data every day, and these people aren't rare. You can whine about backhanders and lock in all you like, from where I'm sitting people use excel because it is THE TOOL for for serious number crunchers and quants, there's nothing to touch it and no amount of ideology and goodwill will change that anytime soon. Lots more development and testing needed in the real world, not in some open sourcer's bedroom.

I'll try it again in another few years.

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Anonymous Coward

No

if you do serious number crunching you use SPSS, or R, or Mathematica, or something else that is designed for it, but not Excel.

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Anonymous Coward

Smaller chunks is the wrong way to go

Smaller vendors only pretend to have the resource to program on Windows based systems, leaning on MS Office components to save them a chunk of programming (I really hate it when vendors want Office loaded on a server) and therein lies teh problem.

Local Government relies heavily on these companies that deliver bespoke packages for revenues, benefits, bus pass administration and all the rest of it. Locla government has always suffered from not having enough bite behind its bark to force vendors to adapt to their needs. It will take the bark and bits of central government to make anything happen on a country wide scale.

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Alert

Let's be clear here

A lot of Govt IT people are still having problems understanding the difference between Open Source and Open Standards, so expecting them to make credible decisions means they have to be educated first. The problem is that in the time to educate them there is a need for a buying decision and no-one ever got fired for buying Microsoft (not that I am aware of anyway).

If they actually got to the point of buying Open Source products then there are the issues of security but first and foremost there is the issue of support. If the Govt buys Open Office who will support it, write the patches to remove any security issues, write the code to improve it and add functionality? And how many of these people are not UK citizens? This is the single biggest barrier to using Open Source. Whilst most of us are happy to use Open Office to write letters to our grannies or send personalised newsletters to our friends how many would seriously set about writing the low level strategy to defend the UK in case of a dirty bomb imported via Dover? The Government won't do this because it had no control over the code that has been written nor the people writing that code. For all the Government knows there may be hidden somewhere in the code a trigger to send a copy of the document to a nice server in China or India. At least MS Office is written by a company who the American Govt has some control over and who has employees that can be subject to security checks when they are employed. Who does that on Open Source projects?

The big "failures" that people mention on this site normally have nothing to do with the software. Based on experience I am not even sure that they are the fault of the people employed to deliver the solution. In most instances it is because the customer does not understand that a change to scope equals, a change to the price, an increase in effort, an increase in duration and if not managed correctly a break in the delivery process. These issues have nothing to do with the Govt or politiicans it is down to the weaknesses in the staff that the Civil Service employs.

Whereas in days gone by people with a strong public service ethic have worked in the public sector today to many people work there who have a strong personal or politicial agenda which carries them off at tangents to the work of that they are supposed to do. Left leaning union members believe that the private sector is there to rip them off because they do not understand the value of reputation nor the damage that can be done to a reputation through a deliberate policy of ripping customers off. Of course their view of private companies is not exactly contrary to some of the views expressed here.

Finally, having had experience of trying to implement Open Source products in major government projects can anyone tell me how I find the resources to do it? If we use Microsoft or Oracle we can call on a resource pool of thousands between in house resource and the contractor market within the UK. If we use MySQL or any other open source database/middleware product, how many people are there speciailised in these products in the UK contractor market with the necessary security clearances 'cos we don't have that many in house speciailsts.

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Anonymous Coward

The politics of despair

A summary ..

1. Government buys Microsoft software.

2. Change is difficult.

3. GOTO 1.

A rant ..

For all the billions of pounds wasted on incompetently managed, over specified, unnecessary and just plain stupid Government IT projects we could have employed developers to write "UKOffice". An office suite to exactly match the over specified, unnecessary and just plain stupid Government paperwork produced over the last 50 years or so.

UKOffice would never have been delivered, the paperwork would not have been produced and we would all be a lot better off.

If the public sector was compelled to use OpenOffice, GoogleDocs or some such they might have to produce simpler documents. The poster who suggested the death of death by PowerPoint just wasn't going far enough. Let's have the death of ludicrously formatted Word documents and the Excel virus* as well.

Anyone remember the days of DOS word processors ? Anyone like to claim a letter takes less time to produce now than it did then ? Sure, todays letter has some elaborate logo that wastes toner and needs changing every year for no apparent reason but the content hasn't improved one little bit.

* That's Excel as a virus. Once accountants got their hands on spreadsheets they could "prove" that the most effective use of resources was to outsource/offshore everything and stop businessmen wasting money on plant, equipment, R&D, training and those sorts of unproductive things.

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