Cabinet Office issues open source procurement toolkit

3 November 2011

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3 November 2011 | Angeline Albert

The Cabinet Office has published an open source procurement toolkit to help public sector buyers.

Open source software is distinguished by terms of use that offer certain freedoms in contrast to proprietary (licensed under exclusive legal right of the copyright holder) software, which restricts these rights. It guarantees the right to access and modify source code and to use, reuse and redistribute the software, all with no royalty or other costs.

The toolkit includes the documents: All about Open Source, ICT Advice Note –Procurement of Open Source, OpenSource Options v1.0 and Total cost of ownership - things to consider v1.0.Created in conjunction with the Home Office, the guidance said more widespread use of open source can encourage reuse, innovation, flexibility and reduce the price of software. It also increases the options for support, reduces monopolies and promotes competition.

When purchasing IT, the toolkit said government departments should, where possible, buy open source solutions. This would make government assets open for reuse to maximise return on investment, avoid technological or supplier lock-in and reduce operational risk in IT projects. 

The guidance also dispels myths about open source – including that it is a security risk because the source code is open to all. The guidance said “open source options cannot be excluded from evaluation on the basis of the above security arguments. The security implications are the same as for proprietary software.”

The toolkit said procurement decisions should be based on best value for money, the solution to the business requirement, total lifetime cost of ownership (including exit and transition costs), after ensuring that solutions fulfil minimum, essential capability, security, transferability and support requirements.

The documents support the government’s IT strategy, published in March, which states that a level playing field should be created for the use of innovative IT solutions such as open source. 

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