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'Open standards could protect government from vendor lock-in'

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"Using open standards could protect the government from relying too much on a single vendor, and might allow the government to contract home-grown IT firms", according to a report by the United Kingdom's Parliament's Office of Science and Technology. The report 'Open Source and Open Standards', was published on 11 July.

The policy paper examines the quality, cost and security of open source software and considers government plans to adopt open standards.

The report implies that IT systems designed around open standards offers governments certainty, as "any changes to open standards must be agreed with the user base."

"Consultants advise that migration to a new setup, irrespective of whether it is open or closed source, will be easier if open standards are followed. Therefore, the government would be in a more powerful bargaining position when procuring new solutions or renegotiating existing ones. Whether choosing an open or closed source solution, procurement processes should ensure that customisation by the supplier does not effectively lock the government in."

Open document formats
The report also mentions that experts in archiving and curation suggest "that the government could begin to convert documents from proprietary into open formats, which would reduce the risk of losing access to them in the future. While open source ensures that documents are saved in an open format, this is not always the case for proprietary software. Using open formats in the future would bypass the expense and unreliability of converting documents."

The report compares open source and proprietary software, looking at security, cost, support and maintenance. Describing open standards, it introduces topics including software patents, document interoperability and whether or not standards must not be encumbered by patents and payment of royalties.

More information:
Open Source and Open Standards - POST Note

Information

Geographic coverage:
United Kingdom
Themes:
Communications