On 18 May 2011, the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) launched an appeal for users to supply information on recommended open source software applications for use in the UK public sector. The FSFE’s intention is to write a paper which shows how widely deployed the applications are, thereby making them as attractive as possible to UK public sector procurers and suppliers.
The FSFE have created an Etherpad page which lists various OSS applications which are recommended for use in the UK public sector, and are asking their users to contribute details of large scale deployments of each application to demonstrate its suitability. In addition it asks users for information about the as yet unlisted applications which can fulfil a number of stated roles.
The UK Government believes that OSS can deliver significant short- and long-term cost savings across the public sector. Despite this, OSS is not currently widely used in the public sector, and the leading systems integrators for Government departments do not routinely consider open source software for IT solution options, as required by existing Government ICT policy. The reason for this is that there are significant and wide-ranging obstacles to OSS in the public sector, such as the lack of procurement guidance, resistance from suppliers, concerns about license obligations and patent issues, and a lack of understanding of open source maturity and its development ecosystem.
In order to encourage the use of OSS in the public sector, the Government published two documents on the Internet in April 2011:
- ‘Open Source Software Options for Government - v0.3 DRAFT’, which presents a range of OSS options for use in Government. These options include servers, databases, middleware, application servers, cloud, business applications, network, web, desktop office and specialist applications. It is not intended to be a comprehensive list, but is deemed to be useful for encouraging IT suppliers to consider OSS, and to aid the assurance of their proposals.
- ‘Assessment of Open Source Software for Government - v0.3 DRAFT’, which presents suggested criteria for assessing the suitability of open source software for a particular business requirement. One aspect of assessment of the software is how ‘proven’ it is. Ideally, there would be many real world examples of the software in use, most particularly in Government and the wider public sector. Ideally such usage would have been successful over many years, and be proven in heavy use with respect to user demand, performance, data size and processing, and geographical reach.