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Open Source Software

Volume 492: debated on Wednesday 20 May 2009

3. What guidance his Department provides to other Departments on the use of open source software. (276396)

The Government’s policy is to use open source when it gives the best value for money. We are taking positive action to ensure that Departments and our IT suppliers do that. We published our new action plan on 24 February, including guidance on specific actions for Departments. The Chief Information Officer Council is driving the implementation.

The Government have talked a good game for some time about open source software, but have done very little. What more can the Parliamentary Secretary do to encourage Departments to implement real change and reduce the horrific cost and genuine inconvenience of software licensing?

I understand the hon. Gentleman’s arguments. Indeed, I read the transcript of his Westminster Hall debate last year, and I know that he proposes some positive ideas, which the Government should take up. The Government are taking up open source solutions—50 per cent. of Government websites use open source software and we are about to deploy Linux-based platforms, which will go to 300,000 NHS workers. In the spirit of open source, I ask the hon. Gentleman, who is a renowned expert in the field, to come and meet our officials, share some of his ideas with us and help us improve what we do.

Would my hon. Friend put this debate into perspective? Does he agree that most of the chief information officers would agree that open source has its place, but that open standards are a much more important part of the debate?

They are a very important part of the debate. There is no doubt that open standards and interoperability are the means by which we will improve our IT sourcing. When we talk about open source, we should remember that it is only free to acquire and that we also must invest to maintain and sustain our systems.

Open source and open standards are important, but I have noticed that BT offers a free laptop, a free website and free help to all our charities. The open source and all the things for charities are available for free, so is there a way that we can round it all up in one place, on the direct.gov site?

I am sure that we could do that. In fact, why don’t I talk to the chief executive of direct.gov and put that question to her?