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UK Public Administration’s Use of Open Source Growing in Importance
Source: eGovmonitor
Source Date: Tuesday, October 04, 2011
Focus: ICT for MDGs, Citizen Engagement
Created: Oct 06, 2011

Open source is a topic rising in importance for public administrations in the United Kingdom. Very recent examples of public administrations turning to this type of software include city and county councils, hospitals and government departments, and politicians increasingly recognise its importance.
Last March, the cabinet unveiled its new ICT strategy, in which the use of this type of software is one of the ten key themes. To tackle the failing of big and complex IT projects, and to increase sharing and reuse of IT and data, the cabinet says that it wants to 'create a level playing field for open source software'. A second theme is to 'impose compulsory open standards, starting with interoperability and security'.
Among the most recent reports of public administrations implementing open source solutions is the Oxfordshire County Council, moving its web site to Drupal, an open source system for managing web sites. The H-Online, an IT news site focussing on open source last week reported that several hospitals are considering the use of an electronic patient record based on open source components. A third example is the department of transport, that earlier this month signed a contract to start hosting some of its web applications on open source.
British IT news also report on set-backs for open source in public administrations. One example is the struggle by the Bristol city council to move to an open source email system. According to a report by Computer Weekly, the city's IT department this summer recommended the city buy a proprietary system, "because it did not have security clearance to buy alternatives".
The IT news site reports that CESG, the cyber security arm of the government's intelligence unit, has only certified proprietary email solutions and has not looked at open source alternatives.
"Computer Weekly understands the Cabinet Office has been talking to CESG about the certification problem since March. A source close to the department said it had found a solution, but he was unable to explain how open source systems could be accredited unless public bodies were asked to carry the cost of putting them through CESG's gruelling, 18-month certification process."
A second example of a set back was reported this month by IT news site Techeye. "Following a number of freedom of information requests, it was recently revealed that government departments were ignoring open source in the face of proprietary software".
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