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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Open Source Politics in the UK

Open source was thrust into the rough-and-tumble of British politics this week when the Tory Party's shadow chancellor criticized Tony Blair's Labor Party for its failure to expand use of open source software in government.

George Osborne seems to get it, and he spoke with clarity and passion. In his remarks (full speech is here), he complained of the uneven playing field for open source in government procurement.

But his challenge went beyond procurement rules. Osbourne called for a change in the culture of government in the digital age, and presented a technology strategy for the Conservative Party based upon three pillars: equality of information, social networking and open source. And not just open source as software but open source as a powerful model for mass collaboration.

Open source politics does not mean open source dictatorship. A Conservative Party spokesperson underscored this after the speech:
"Procurement should be based on what best meets their needs. Functionality, performance, security, value and the cost of ownership of software should be the priority, not categorical preferences for open source software, commercial software, free software or any other software development model."
If only more politicians spoke like this.

Categories: opensource, UK, government


Donald Axel said...

I sounds like the conservative spokesman has adopted the MS-proprietary argument line of arguments which consists mainly of the following statements, all of which can hardly be substantiated:
1) MS products have better functionality,
2) have better security,
3) have more value (!)
4) have lower cost of ownership,
5) and the development model used does not matter (and will not affect the level of competence in the buyer-organization.)

How can one argue against "MS products having more security" when security issues are not broadly understood.
One could end up like this in an argument: "MS products have more virus-scanners available and are thus more secure than some Open Source products which do not have virus-scanners."

Well, of course you and I know that with a proper setup a Posix system does not need lots of virus scanners which only degrade performance.

In order to end this comment on a more optimistic note I should add that your weblog has kept track of many of the most important landmarks for the adoption of the Open, or should we say International Standards principles.

Jeff Kaplan said...

Don, thanks so much for your comments and kind words. I enjoy it when smart people like you share your ideas.

On the UK politics, I think actually that the Conservative Party is trying to take a pro-open source position. In his comments, the Party spokesperson was trying to say that they do not favor requiring open source or setting a quota -- they are aiming to increase choices based on what best fits business needs. I think that makes sense.

Donald said...

It certainly makes sense, but only some half-truth-sense.
In Denmark the enemies of Open Standards try to promote the view that Open Source should not be favored by requiring ODF when governments communicate to citizens.
So by mixing Open Source and "Open Standards" the line of argument tend to lose the important perspective of a document representation which can be secured for future generations.

It would be nice if the Conservative Spokesman in UK meant what you expects he means.