I know people mostly know me for either talking and writing about social media or web usability. But over the past few years, I’ve been involved in so many different government related projects that I’ve managed to pick up a more bigger picture of government ICT. More recently I’ve learnt a lot about open source in government, so I think I’ll talk a little bit about it.
This post will delve into how government can spend less money on IT investments using open source. But before we go deep into that, let’s have a look at something all of us are familiar with, the government’s ICT strategy.
Government ICT Strategy 2011
The recent government ICT strategy published in 2011 highlights the need to better control ICT expenditure. But this does not necessarily mean spending less. It also means spending better, more intelligently.
- We should be looking at whether we could be better use cloud approaches to using IT,
- Consolidating networks,
- Can we make better use of SMEs,
- We should relook at our engagement with our suppliers. Do we have enough of a mix? Do we have enough of a spread?
- Open source
- Open Standards
Getting the best value from the IT market
If government really wants to get the best value from the IT market, we really need to start to understand open source, open architecture and open standards. We often associate ‘value’ with how much we’re getting for the amount of money we spend, and with our government forced to do more with less, its never been a better time for open source to stand up and get noticed.
So why are some government departments still not considering open source in these hard financial times? Just to show you how ‘detached’ government is from open source is, just take a look at these headlines over the years.
- Why can’t local government and open source be friends?
- Open source still feared within Whitehall, says IT architect
- Bristol’s voyage to open source software hits choppy waters
- Local government ‘detached’ from open source benefits
To help things out a bit, I thought I’d present some open source facts and figures.
Open Source facts and figures
Did you know that: –
- Wikipedia, Google, Facebook, New York Stock Exchange, London Stock Exchange, Citrix, Apple, Juniper, IronPort, Yahoo, NetApp, VMWare, YouTube, Flickr, Amazon, Whitehouse.gov, CIA/FBI.gov, CERN (16000 VMs), US DoD, Guardian, Disney, Cisco, French Air Force, US Navy are all powered by open source
- Approximately 80% of internet websites are powered by open source
- 90% of “Top 500 Supercomputers” run open source
- Open Source is already being used in the UK public sector – Government Digital Service (GDS), The Met Office, Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), The National Archives (TNA) and many more
- Open source is used in space by NASA (1997)
- Open source is used in your android phone and your Mac
Open source barriers in government
According to Tariq Rashid (Cabinet Office’s Tech Lead Architect) barriers to open Source in government is “not understanding what open Source is.”
So, what is open source?
- Its just software like any other: There are more similarities to open and closed software’s than not.
- FREEDOM to use it in any way you want: There are differences and that is in their license. The license is not a unit of purchase, like closed software’s. It’s a term of user and it guarantees certain freedoms. And if you’re experienced in public sector IT, you’ll know that some of the licenses and contracts that we engage in don’t have that freedom. We wave a flag around every year around reuse, but we are sometimes constrained in our ability to do that because of the licenses and contracts we’ve engaged in.
- FREEDOM to redistribute: If we’ve improved it, if we’ve built solutions around its much easier to share and reuse those. And we want to. We don’t want to keep reinventing the wheel. We don’t want to pay twice or more for the same thing and effort.
- FREEDOM to access the code and modify it: This means that if you want to, you can access and modify the code. You don’t have to be a developer, a coder, an expert in PHP, Perl and C++ to use open source. If you don’t want to, you don’t have to. You can take it packaged, wrapped in a service and import it to perform specific tasks just like any other software. But if you want to, you can change it, adjust it and integrate it with other stuff. So it’s a choice, its not a barrier.
- Obligations to share your improvements and changes: In most government use cases, it isn’t triggered. There is a fear sometimes in government, that if we use open source, we’ve exposed ourselves. We’ll have to open up all of our systems. That isn’t the case.
So, I hope this blog post has somewhat helped for people to understand what open source is and start to consider it as a solution and start saving tax payers money.
Open source technologies
Some of the open source technologies I’ve personally worked with and could give you some pointers on or put you in touch with some of the people I know there, are listed below.
- Alfresco – ECM, Mobile, Cloud, CMS
- eXo Platform – Enterprise-scale portal, CMS
- RedHat – operating system platforms, middleware, applications, management products, and support, training, and consulting services.
- Liferay – Enterprise portal solution
- Ephesoft– Intelligent Document Capture / Scanning system
Other recommended reading on open source for government: –
- Why government needs open source by Dries Buytaert
- Demand a more open-source government: Beth Noveck at TEDGlobal 2012
- Local government IT: the open source dilemma
Hope you’ve found this useful.
Liz Azyan is interested in the ways new kinds of social data and technology introduce challenges and opportunities to society. Get involved with Liz’s latest project here.