Open Source and eGovernment 3


Is anyone else totally frustrated trying to deal with the Government electronically if you DON’T use Internet Explorer? I run my own small business and for 4 years, successfully used NetScape 4 and a digital certificate to access Government email, VAT, PAYE and Corporation Tax. Gradually the applications have stopped working under NetScape 4 (reasonably enough) but the ONLY browser supported with Digital Certificates is Internet Explorer.

Our company’s security policy prohibits IE – too insecure, too many patches and anyway we now run Linux on the Desktop. Some eGovernment applications have some support for Open Source browsers but not with digital certificates.

I have spent countless hours talking to eGovernment helpdesks with bug reports and screenshots. Eventually they all gradually fade away, especially if you ask about strategy with regard to supporting open source browsers. Didn’t this government have a splash in the press last October about supporting open source?

The argument is always “it’s not worth supporting open source because no-one uses it”. Self fulfilling prophecy! The Government should be leading the way on Open Source, not prohibiting it.

Does anyone have access to the office of Ian Watmore, head of eGovernment?? I tried writing to the CEO of the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) but other than a secretarial response saying it had been passed on, I’ve had no reply.

Jane Curry


3 thoughts on “Open Source and eGovernment

  • markelkins
    Open Source and eGovernment

    My experience is that for the vast majority of websites the issue of difficulties with cross-platform portability or cross-browser use does not surface. After all why should it as the Open Source technology to avoid it has been available for some years. For example what is wrong with using basic HTML with either a scripting language such as PHP or a programming language like PERL that will return a webpage to Mozilla, Netscape, Explorer or whatever browser.

    However bizarre as it might seem with all this technology available to software developers some recent websites just simply will not function properly in all of the above mentioned browsers. One of the worse examples the last time I looked is the current Jobcentreplus website. It is not possible to search for a job on this website using Mozilla as shipped with Red Hat Linux 8, 9, or Fedora 3. Yet if I want to search another UK Government inspired website such as the one for NHS Direct no problems occur with this combination of software.

    Mark Elkins

  • admered1
    Open Source and eGovernment

    curryj wrote:
    The argument is always “it’s not worth supporting open source because no-one uses it”. Self fulfilling prophecy! The Government should be leading the way on Open Source, not prohibiting it.

    Thankfully HMG are not the only people writing websites. Maybe the track is to get a definitive statement out of them as to why they will support nobody other than MS. Once you have this in writing, you then enclose it along with the latest figures on the use of Firefox in Europe (about 15-20% depending) and a complaint to your MP. You may also choose to copy in the author of the letter.

    The good thing about paper is that it is legally harder for them to ignore.

  • admered1
    Open Source and eGovernment

    curryj wrote:
    The argument is always “it’s not worth supporting open source because no-one uses it”. Self fulfilling prophecy! The Government should be leading the way on Open Source, not prohibiting it.

    Thankfully HMG are not the only people writing websites. Maybe the track is to get a definitive statement out of them as to why they will support nobody other than MS. Once you have this in writing, you then enclose it along with the latest figures on the use of Firefox in Europe (about 15-20% depending) and a complaint to your MP. You may also choose to copy in the author of the letter.

    The good thing about paper is that it is legally harder for them to ignore.

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