Government IT Suppliers Claim Procurement System Excludes Open Source [UK]

Mark Ballard | | February 25, 2011

Systems integrators took on a disapproving audience of open source advocates this week after the government told its biggest suppliers to explain why its open source policy has been thwarted for so long. Five executives braved public censure to tell a meeting of the BCS Open Source Group that the fault was an industry ecosystem built over 20 years on principles inimical to the open source model. The hostile ecosystem sustained itself - they merely operated within it, they said.

Darren Austin, chief engineer at Atos Origin UK, said the desire for greater use of open source in public sector IT projects had been blocked by standard government contracts, by enterprise software licences and by the reluctance of suppliers operating the government's key systems.

The enterprise-wide agreements with which the Office of Government Commerce agrees bulk prices with large software suppliers define what effectively became the default software used across the whole of government, said Austin. They put systems integrators in a commercial straight-jacket.

"We drop into myriad complexities around what existing agreements we have in place. This is where we have the big challenge as the integrator," he said. "We have to find the right fit in that matrix to deliver a supportable service."