More on Open Source

This concerns our own British Government. I have highlighted the passage I want to talk about in red below.

UK: Open source gets a place in long-term strategy city councils

by Gijs Hillenius — published on Sep 28, 2010

City councils in the United Kingdom are turning to using open source software to reach long-term goals to battle vendor lock-in, increase interoperability and save costs. The national government meanwhile is asking for business cases proving that using open source is cheaper.

Reaching such goals in the short term is hard, discovered the council of the city of Bristol. Its plans to use OpenOffice on its desktop are hampered because of the widespread use of proprietary documents formats by other UK public administrations, Mark Wright, the city councillor responsible for IT, explained last week at seminar on open source in government.

To overcome this interoperability, Bristol is forced to spend 7.3 million GBP (about 8.6 million Euro) on proprietary software licences, according to proposal published by the city.

“The Council is a strong advocate of open data, open standards and  open source solutions. Our ‘Open ICT strategy’ mandates future suppliers of ICT products must comply with open standards and offer open source solutions in line with Government and Council policy. Therefore, the recommended solution must support this position but also address the business critical requirements that need to be met, in particular to exchange information with partners and to integrate with other business systems”, the IT department writes.

According to Computing, an UK IT news site, councillor Wright explained that he thought Bristol would be the first of many city councils moving to open source. “However, we remained the only council to do so, with other councils expecting documents to be created in Microsoft. Microsoft tends to run the closed file format docx. It does have an open source file format, odf, but doesn’t offer much support for this.”


At the same seminar, the council of the city of Birmingham also announced its intention to do more with open source in the long term. According to a report by Computer Weekly, Birmingham started a review of its IT strategy. The city aims to be able to use open source to save costs and to increase collaboration with other organisations.

“Like all authorities, what we are facing at the moment are fairly significant cuts. Any potential cost-reduction business case is receiving serious scrutiny,” Gerry McMullan, business policy manager for the council, was quoted by Computer Weekly. “So we will be looking again at some of the cost aspects of open source.”

Speaking at a different conference, Bill McCluggage, deputy chief information officer for the UK government, last week hinted the government will specify the use of open standards, which should open the way for open source applications. He also called for business cases that show that using open source is cheaper than using proprietary software.

IT Pro, a UK IT news site, quoted McCluggage as saying: “I have not seen a business case that has articulated open source being cheaper than proprietary.”

I am not sure how to take the comments of the UK government’s deputy chief information officer above, highlighted in red. Earlier he talks in favour of Open Source, but to the Press he says something that seems very different.

Bearing in mind that Microsoft licenses are hugely expensive and for most of the civil service covers not only licenses for Windows, but for Microsoft Office as well. We are talking huge bucks here.

The Linux operating system is free, as is Open Office. Admittedly there is the cost of retraining the IT people, but that is a once-off cost en masse, and when people leave, it will be much easier to train new staff individually.

Even if you added the Microsoft licence cost to the support costs, supporting Linux would be much lower than the combined cost.

As for Open Source “Open Office” having a different file structure.Yes, that is so, but Open Office can not only read Microsoft’s new docx files easily, but can save back to Microsoft Office format so Bristol Council’s reason for keeping to Microsoft is disengenerous!

It would make sense if McCluggage was illegally taking a bribe from Microsoft but, as McCluggage works as a senior man for the Government, this could just not possibly be. No way would anyone in the Government take kickbacks, would they?

So it will have to remain a mystery and we tax-payers will have to bite the bullet and continue paying Microsoft their very large license fees. Unless he has been misquoted by the press. It would be nice to have this cleared up.



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