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Computer Software

Volume 465: debated on Thursday 25 October 2007

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (1) what estimate he has made of the (a) percentage of software by value procured using Open Source and (b) percentage of software projects procured using Open Source in each of the last five years for which information is available; (154773)

(2) what plans he has to promote the use of Open Source IT by Government bodies; and what targets exist for the use of Open Source;

(3) what assessment his Department has made of the potential of Open Source software to produce efficiency savings;

(4) what steps have been taken following his Department’s publication of Open Source Software Use Within UK Government in 2004; and if he will make a statement;

(5) which of the seven next steps listed on page six of his Department’s publication Open Source Software Use Within UK Government published in 2004, have been implemented; and if he will make a statement;

(6) what advice has been issued by the Office of Government Commerce to departments on the use of Open Source information technology.

Government seeks the most cost-effective IT solutions. It tries to avoid mandating particular technologies so that suppliers can manage technology risks.

Although Open Source can be cheaper to purchase it can also entail higher support and other costs. The additional costs or savings depend on the individual business requirement. This is supported by external studies which have not shown a consistent advantage to open source in these terms.

The Government’s policy on Open Source is to consider such solutions alongside proprietary ones in IT procurements and award contracts on a value for money basis; only use products for interoperability that support open standards and specifications in all future IT developments; seek to avoid lock-in to proprietary IT products and services; and consider obtaining full rights to bespoke software code or customisations of commercial off the shelf software it procures wherever this achieves best value for money.

The Government have no targets to promote the use of Open Source except where it is the most cost-effective way of meeting its needs. Information on the total use and value of Open Source in government is not held centrally and could not be obtained except at disproportionate cost. However it does play an important role in major applications including websites such as Directgov; Electronic Vehicle Licensing; and Jobcentre Plus’s system to help people to obtain jobs.

Since 2004 we have continued to explore the use of Open Source to reduce total costs and improve the quality of business solutions. The security issues have been examined: some open source products have already passed information assurance certification. We have published the results of open source trials and can be found at:

http://www.ogc.gov.uk/documents/CP0041OpenSourceSoftware TrialReport.pdf.

DTI and Research Councils have continued to work on Open Source issues in government-funded research (although no central records are held on individual projects).

I would also refer the hon. Member to the speech given by my right hon. Friend the Exchequer Secretary in Westminster Hall, Official Report, columns 48-52WH.