Input To UK Government

My input to the UK Government consultation on document formats:

I believe it is imperative to have a single document format standard used as the benchmark for corresponding with the UK Government, rather than a named software package or a choice of formats. That standard must be capable of complete implementation by any party using only the specification without needing a relationship (such as a license) with a specific vendor or community. Among the existing full implementations there must be one which is both open source and available to citizens without charge (and depending only on other software such as an OS that is without charge). To take any other approach is to tacitly promote the business of a preferred vendor and to restrict access to government to an elite able to obtain the preferred vendor’s offerings.

I believe the proposal above is a reasonable, balanced and effective expression of these principles and I wholeheartedly endorse it.

EU Procurement Failures

How do you do open procurement for ICT solutions? The answer, according to the European Commission, is to ensure that all procurement that requires tendering (and not all does) is specified in terms of the functions required rather than expressing a preference for the brands involved in the solution. But despite the clear regulations there seem to be plenty of public authorities across Europe which ignore them. This is bad news for European businesses and very bad news for open source, as I explain in ComputerWorldUK today.

☝ The Problem With Free

UK government procurement is still crippled by the dazzling power of the word “free”, which drowns out appreciation of the true strengths of open source. Read about it in today’s ComputerWorldUK article.

☝ Switzerland Celebrates Document Freedom Day

How did Document Freedom Day go for you? If you need a reminder about it, I wrote about why document freedom matters a month or so ago. But I note that in Switzerland there’s been a setback against openness. Read my views over on ComputerWorldUK.

☂ Subscriptions Article Available

My article discussing why open source subscriptions should not be procured with the same assumptions and procedures as proprietary software is now available in the Essays section.

☝ Open Source Procurement: Subscriptions

When you procure proprietary software, you buy a right-to-use license and then a support agreement. But when you buy open source, you already have the right-to-use from the OSI-approved free license, so you should compare the subscription cost with just the cost of a proprietary support agreement. Right?

Wrong! The open source subscription includes all the same elements as the combination of both purchases. In most cases, if you are receiving equivalent value, you should expect to pay similar prices.

Read all about it over on ComputerWorldUK

☆ The Open Source Procurement Challenge

I am speaking at the ODF Plugfest here in the UK this morning, on the subject of the challenges facing the procurement of open source software by traditional enterprises (including the public sector). Based on a selection of experiences from ForgeRock’s first year, my talk considers procurement challenges that legacy procurement rules raise for introducing true open source solutions. My slides are available online. I consider two different needs:

  • The need for legacy procurement barriers to be removed. Examples:
    • requirements for indemnity that are only truly proportionate for proprietary software
    • requirements for copyright assignment and license negotiation
    • comparison of open source subscriptions with only the service portion of proprietary bids
    • a preference to sustain the lock-in caused by previous procurement
  • The need to recognise new value available from open source. Examples:
    • Removal of the need to administer end-user licenses
    • Long-term continuity – “community escrow
    • The ability to create ecosystems without vendor mandates
    • Enablement of adoption-led deployment

If we’re to see open source solutions bringing budget and change flexibility to government IT as the Prime Minister wants, both kinds of change – addressing legacy processes and lock-in (so that SIs are out of excuses) and seeking new kinds of value – are essential.

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