U.K. Government Aiming to Cut Costs with Open Source Solutions
U.K. Government Aiming to Cut
Costs with Open Source Solutions
The U.K. government is planning to cut costs, by switching from Microsoft’s
expensive software to open source solutions, a report published in the Guardian
The cabinet office minister Francis Maude believes that installing software solutions
that produce documents in the open document format is more cost-effective than
Microsoft’s Office suite. The UK government sector has spent more than 200 million
pounds (since 2010) on Microsoft Office licenses. The government wants to avoid
tying government staff and taxpayers to any one piece of technology or software.
They would like to eliminate the tiny oligopoly prevailing in the market, as software
that is being used in government computers is still supplied by a few large
Initiatives from the U.K. Government to Achieve the Goal
The U.K government would like to have an efficient document management
system with a great range of software. Such a system should have the capability to
provide its users with the following benefits.
• Allow civil servants to access any information they need
• Employees can get their work done without buying any particular brand of
• Help departments to share documents more easily
• Facilitate the public to use and share government information
A large amount of the outlay needed when using Microsoft could be cut by adopting
software that can produce open-source files in ODF (open document format), such as
Google Docs and OpenOffice.
Open Standards Adopted
Open standards are vital for making technology cheaper, more connected and
better suited to public services. To achieve those benefits and reduce cost, the U.K.
cabinet office has selected two open standards.
• HTTP/1.1 URL: Helps in reusing public sector information, by assigning
consistent identifiers for entities such as schools, hospitals or government
companies included in government datasets.
• Unicode UTF-8: Is useful to prevent corruption of text between systems.
These open standards work on the basis of certain principles that bring out
innovative IT services, increase savings, and push more competition for government
contracts. All government bodies must obey these principles to attain benefits such
• Apply for an exemption
• Software interoperability
• Data and document formats in government IT
Now the public can get involved in the process of prioritizing and selecting open
standards for Government IT. One among the document formats such as pdf, txt,
doc, odt, xlsx, odp and html, should be mandated to share information with the
public. Once a format got mandated, sharing of information should be done in the
prescribed format, otherwise files in different format should be converted using
reliable document conversion software. Open standards implementation in
government IT will include the following phases.
• Suggestions phase: Collecting suggestions from users of government services
regarding the challenges they face.
• Challenge phase: Collecting ideas from public on the standards or approaches
that would help government address the challenges
• Proposal phase: Creating proposals for each challenge
• Assessment Phase: Among the proposals created for each challenge, a
suitable one is selected and submitted to the Open Standards Board
• Implementation phase: Implementing the adopted standards
Open source suites like OpenOffice and LibreOffice are still in use with various central
government departments, along with open source operating systems being used in
public sector bodies such as the Met Office and Government Digital Service. Some of
the government bodies in Europe have successfully moved to open source software,
especially the city of Munich. They recently made transition of about 15,000 staff
from Microsoft OS and office suite to open source alternatives.
Anyhow, the U.K. government is not completely barring Microsoft’s software suites,
but is looking for options that are more economical. Undoubtedly, when it comes to
document management and document management services, affordability is a major