14 March 2007 | Paul Snell
A Conservative government would reform public sector IT buying, according to the shadow chancellor.
George Osborne told delegates at a conference in London last week that the Tories would change procurement rules from "day one" to show the benefits of using "open-source" software.
Open-source software is developed and modified by communities of developers, rather than a single company. Examples include Wikipedia and the Firefox internet browser. Osborne said the government could save 5 per cent of its annual IT bill, around £600 million, if it used more software of this kind. He explained how the Japanese government halved its costs when it switched its payroll system to open-source software.
He said that parliamentary questions had revealed most central government departments make no use of the software, and "not a single open-source company is included" on the approved list of IT suppliers.
He added that using open source did not mean "having to stop using Microsoft products", because that is not where real savings lie. He said more use of open source would free government bodies from "long-term monopoly supply situations" and reduce licence costs.