Government IT and Software Procurement

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 12:44 pm on 9th October 2007.

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Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle The Exchequer Secretary, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee 12:44 pm, 9th October 2007

I understand the nature of ongoing contractual relationships. All that I can say is that because we do not want lock-in or citizens to be left with sub-optimal solutions, it is up to the people contracting to ensure that that does not happen. I think that we are far more sophisticated about that than we used to be. Our absolute insistence on open standards makes it far less likely that we will end up in a situation like the one the hon. Gentleman attempted to describe in his intervention.

I go back to my challenge to open source providers to work with IT services firms, so that they can integrate open source into the solutions they supply when they contract with the Government. That is already happening in many cases, and we are using open source—I have given examples of that—but I would like it to happen more. On our side, John Suffolk, the Government's chief information officer, will work with the industry and with departmental CIOs to help ensure that our open source policy is innovatively applied throughout the supply chain and in the future.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his contribution to today's debate, for securing the debate and for his interest in the subject. I think that we share the same goal of ensuring that we have the best possible and healthiest mix of competition and innovation in the UK Government's procurement of IT software in an increasingly sophisticated environment, to ensure that services to citizens are modernised in the way that I have described. I hope that I have explained that we are committed to exploring the ways in which open source software can help us to achieve that and to using such software where it is appropriate to do so. We are committed to offering a level playing field, and we will make case-by-case decisions about which of the solutions presented to us in any procurement win. I want to challenge open source software providers to show us what they have to offer and what they can do, so that we can ensure a far greater mix of solutions, far greater competition and more innovation in the way in which we procure software, to give citizens modernised access to Government services.

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Keith Neilson
Posted on 20 Jan 2008 11:24 pm (Report this annotation)

No, because the gov't are issuing the contract it is up to the gov't to ensure that the product supplied (in this case a website but the same follows for absolutely anything that the government invites tenders for) is accesible to all the citizens who wish to use it. If a website cannot be accessed with a Mac or Linux computer then users of those operating systems are being excluded.

As to what Open Source software can provide to government, the evidence is out there if you would care to look. There are open source equivalents of almost all proprietary software packages, available at a fraction of the cost and with the added bonus of them being open. Instead of having a select group of hand picked programmers picking over the code, open source software benefits from hundreds if not thousands of enthusiasts looking at the code, refining it, making it better. As a result, Linux is more secure, more stable and more adaptable than Windows.