19 January 2006 | Anusha Bradley
A certification scheme for suppliers of open source software (OSS) is expected to help public sector IT buyers make better procurement decisions.
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) is encouraging government bodies and local councils to use OSS because it is free to download and is easier to integrate with other systems.
To support this drive, the ODPM funded the formation of the Open Source Academy (OSA), a group of nine IT bodies and local authorities, to develop a certification scheme.
Certified Open gauges the openness of software and its integration potential, providing an at-a-glance appraisal for buyers.
From February, suppliers can voluntarily join the scheme to receive certification.
It will be administered jointly by Open Forum Europe, a trade body representing OSS suppliers, and the Institute of IT Training.
Graham Taylor, director of Open Forum Europe, said the public sector was the fastest-growing market for the OSS industry, as real savings could be made.
"Certification will make it easier for purchasers without technical skills to know what they are buying into," he said.
It would help prevent organisations becoming "locked in" to using one supplier, he added.
Guplia Wicks, senior procurement officer responsible for IT purchasing at Hertfordshire County Council, which uses OSS, said certification "should provide greater flexibility, competition and choice".
But, he added, "It will need to be tested and managed, therefore potentially leading to a similar cost as licensed software."