Looks like ministers in the UK plan to ditch expensive Microsoft software for open source alternatives. Around £200m has been spent by the public sector just on Microsoft’s Office suite since 2010 and now according to a report by The Guardian, ministers plan to make significant savings by switching to open-source alternatives such as OpenOffice and its ilk.
The software used by the government is supplied by just a few large companies, which dominate the market. The proposal of open source software is said to be a part of the drive to ensure more effective and efficient procurement of software. Moreover, this should also improve communication between civil employees. While at a cross-government event displaying new online services, UK Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude reportedly said that, “I want to see a greater range of software used, so civil servants have access to the information they need and can get their work done without having to buy a particular brand of software. In the first instance, this will help departments to do something as simple as share documents with each other more easily. But it will also make it easier for the public to use and share government information.”
The government has been discussing the problems faced by civil servants as they read or work with documents and have roped in experts to solve the issues. Maude reportedly also plans to make changes in order to increase the number of small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) winning public sector contracts.
He also talks about creating CloudStore – an online marketplace for councils and other public bodies to buy software with around £10m spent on the site per month. He highlights that the proportion of central government procurement from SMEs has increased from 6 percent in 2010 to more than 10 percent presently. They’ve finally realised that they are paying huge dollars for older technology, and missing out on innovation. For instance, he said that in a recent tendered contract hosting, a big supplier bid £4m while a UK-based small business offered to do it for £60,000.