Several organisations in favour of open standards and free and open source software want the government of the United Kingdom to quickly start to practically implement its open standards policy. The government, the groups say, should "leverage truly open innovative technologies to achieve long term savings."
They also want the government to adopt a clear definition of what constitutes an open standard.
The four organisations, Open Forum Europe, the Free Software Foundation Europe, the Open Source Consortium and Free and Libre Open Source Software UK, published their call this Tuesday.
The groups want the government to "not do anything which will result in the imposition in a stealth tax upon citizens, for example by requiring them to purchase specific products for interacting with online public services."
They also ask the government to allow "anybody and everybody" to be able to participate in public sector procurement, regardless of their businesses model.
Conflict of interests
"Commitment to these points is critical", the four write, "if the government is to achieve its stated aims of a more competitive and diverse market for public contracts, reduction of barriers to participation in public sector IT affecting small and medium size enterprises, and realisation of the potential benefits of its existing Open Data strategy."
The Free Software Foundation Europe and its sister organisation FSF in the United States issued a statement later this week, calling on their supporters to participate in the consultation.
The British government is seeking opinions on its open standards policy. The main question is whether or not the definition of an open standards should exclude those standards that rely on patents that are made available on so-called Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms, in favour of standards where the patents are made available on a royalty-free basis. The latter is the case for almost all of the standards that the Internet and the World Wide Web rely on.
Advocates of free and open source say FRAND makes it impossible to implement standards in open source software. Advocates of proprietary software argue the definition is too narrow.
Originally the deadline to respond to the consultation was next Tuesday, 1 May. However, yesterday the UK cabinet office decided to throw out the results from a first meeting on the consultation, after finding out that the meeting's facilitator had not declared that he was being paid by a proprietary software vendor to help them with the consultation. It said that because of this it would extend the consultation for an additional month.
Statement by OFE, FSFE, OSC and Floss UK
Open Rights Group statement
FFSE and FSF joint statement
Blog post by the UK cabinet office on the consultationa
Update by the UK cabinet office on the consultation
Computer Weekly blog item
Computer Weekly blog item
Open Standards Consultation