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United Kingdom open standards policy a boost for open source

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One of the aims of the United Kingdom's Open Standard Principles, published today, is to boost the use of free and open source software solutions by the country's public administrations. The new policy describes principles for the selection and specification of open standards which can be implemented in both open source and proprietary software.

In his foreword to the document, Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, writes that the publication is "a fundamental step towards achieving a level playing field for open source and proprietary software and breaking our IT into smaller, more manageable components."

The government says that IT solutions based on open standards will lead to more flexibility and will make it easier for public administrations to interoperate with each other, citizens and business. Using open standards will make government IT projects more sustainable.

The new policy's seven principles specify the standards for software interoperability, data and document formats in the UK's government IT. The policy is effective immediately.

Welcome policy
The policy was almost immediately welcomed by those advocating the use of free and open source software. On Identi.ca, a social network used by many free software enthusiasts, Karsten Gerloff, president of the Free Software Foundation Europe, on Thursday pointed out that the policy stipulated that "essential rights must be licensed royalty free and compatible with both free and proprietary software".

"The point of pushing for open standards is that they make it a lot easier for free software companies and solutions to enter the market", added Gerloff. "This brings true competition, with all the attendant benefits for customers such as the public sector, including lower prices, more innovative products and better quality."

The H-Online quotes Simon Phipps, president of the Open Source Initiative, who told the IT news site he was "pleased to see these principles embodying the work OSI did in the mid-90s on the Open Standards Requirement, as well as the recognition given the Open Source Definition by the link to OSI's license list". Phipps told H-Online: "When standards can be implemented freely by open source software they are truly open."

More information:
UK open standards principles (pdf)
Open standards consultation documents
FSFE statement
FSFE analysis of the policy
Computerworld news item
CRN news item
H-Online news item