Open Source in Government IT: It Is About Savings but That's Not the Whole Story

Tina Amirtha | ZD Net | November 17, 2016

The mood in governments around the world has swung behind open source and open standards, but the shift is not being driven by cost cutting alone.

The US government spends about $6bn per year on software licenses and maintenance, according to the Office of Management and Budget. Given the scale of that spending, it's understandable that the US, like other administrations around the world, is considering open-source software and open software standards as a way of saving money. But more than just seeing the move to open source as a cost-effective alternative, public officials worldwide view it as a means of speeding up innovation in the public sector.

In October, the Dutch government set into law a proposal that all government bodies should use open document formats starting in 2017. In addition, the Dutch government will be promoting open-source software across the public and private sector. The open document format is a digital file type that meets open-standards requirements, a set of technical software specifications that encourages open and proprietary software applications to integrate seamlessly with one another.

For example, the open document file type .odt is compatible with both the proprietary Microsoft Office and the open-source OpenOffice and LibreOffice alternatives. In June, the US government passed into law the Megabyte Act, which aims to streamline software license spending with a projected savings of up to $181m per year for a single internal agency. And in August, the US government issued a new federal software policy that aims to improve efficiency, transparency, and innovation across government by promoting the use of open source...