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New UK government manual for public administrations promotes open source

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Public administrations in the United Kingdom are to prefer open source software over proprietary alternatives, in particular for operating systems, networking software, web servers, databases and programming languages. The choice for this type of ICT solution is part of the 'Government Service Design Manual', published on 14 March.

"Free and open source software has architectural benefits over closed source alternatives", the government explains. Benefits include being able to cooperate with others and avoiding IT vendor lock-in. That is why making things open is one of the ten principles for ICT services, the government writes. "We should share what we're doing whenever we can. With colleagues, with users, with the world. Share code, share designs, share ideas, share intentions, share failures."

This means that the governments not only wants the country's public administrations to switch to using open source, but also to develop this kind of ICT solutions. The Design Manuel advises to "provide developers with ready access to open source development tools with which they will be familiar so they may be productive immediately." The UK government also wants public administrations to contribute to open source projects. "Take every opportunity to contribute back to open source projects you use."

Computer Weekly reported on the publication of the new manual on Friday. The IT trade publication writes that the guide will be effective from April. "Government IT reformers in the Cabinet Office have worked to introduce a level playing field for open source against proprietary software products", Computer Weekly writes. "But this is the first time that government IT policy has gone as far as expressing a formal preference to use open source."

The publication also quotes the government's chief technology officer Liam Maxwell: "In digital public services, open source software is clearly the way forward."

More information:
Computer Weekly news item
Open source section of the UK Government Service Design Manual
UK Government Service Design Manual