Adoption of Open Source across HM Government – London 22/02/11 1

This is the 1st of two events being hosted by the Open Source Specialist Group (OSSG) that considers adoption of Open Source across HM Government. It will be held at the BCS Central London Offices, First Floor, The Davidson Building, 5 Southampton Street, London WC2E 7HA ( on Tuesday 22nd February 2011, from 1800 to 2100.

This bookable event is free and open to all with buffet and refreshments. To book a place to attend please contact Mark Elkins via

A member of the Home Office IT Team is undertaking research in conjunction with the Cabinet Office to:

(1) try and understand why Open Source is not represented better across HMG and the wider public sector, and

(2) identify and address barriers to adoption of Open Source across HMG and the wider public sector.


1. The Coalition Government believes Open Source Software can deliver significant short and long term cost savings across Government IT.

2. Typical benefits of Open Source include lower procurement prices, no license costs, interoperability, easier integration and customisation, compliance with open technology and data standards giving autonomy over your own information and freedom from vendor lock in.

3. OSS is not currently widely used in Government IT, and the leading systems integrators for Government Departments do not routinely consider open source software for IT solution options, as required by existing HMG ICT policy.

4. There are significant and wide ranging obstacles to Open Source in Government. Some of these are lack of procurement guidance, resistance from suppliers, concerns about license obligations and patent issues, and a lack of understanding of open source maturity and its development ecosystem.


The debates will focus on (1) understanding the barriers to wider adoption of Open Source across HMG, and (2) potential solutions to these barriers.

We have representatives (set out in the Panel below) from major IT suppliers to HMG to help us understand the barriers from their perspective, and to help us understand how well any proposed solutions might work. The debates should be more a dialogue with the IT suppliers than amongst OSS supporters.


Darren Austin, UK Chief Engineer, Atos Origin.

Adam Jollans, Program Director – Open Source and Linux Strategy, IBM Systems & Technology Group.

Mike Robertson, Head of Public Sector Business, Savvis.

Gurpritpal Singh, CTO, UK Technology Consulting, Hewlett Packard.

Jon Wrennall, Fujitsu Government Division CTO.

Evening Debate 1 – Tuesday 22nd February

1. Supplier Challenge – how can we incentivise the traditional IT suppliers to consider OSS when evaluating software options?

  • Suitable OSS is not currently being considered equally – why?
  • What are the disincentives for IT suppliers? In-house skills. New support relationships with OSS vendors and support companies. Any others?
  • If they do work with OSS, how can we be sure the cost benefits are passed onto customers?

2. Procurement – how can it be better?

  • What are the current obstacles? Do the existing contracts and frameworks discourage OSS – if so, how?

3. OSS Assessment Model – working with IT suppliers

  • IT suppliers aren’t very open with how they select software as candidates for evalaution – not sustainable when spending taxpayers money.
  • We can help make this more transparent by working with them to build an assessment model they can sign up to. What would suppliers like to include in this assessment? A model to be developed has been started at
  • List of top software per category (virtualisation, monitoring, email, collaboration, etc) – needs to be maintained to be useful, but will get the ball rolling in current lack of knowledge.

4. Case Studies – evidence of short and long term value for money. Where are these? Also proven examples of OSS use in high demand, volume or availability applications.

5. Other Ideas – especially for the next debate.

Evening Debate 2 – Tuesday 1st March

1. Security. OSS is insecure compared to commercial software?

  • By what criteria can we select software to minimise security risks?
  • Does OSS need a different approach to patching?
  • Can we simply use empirical evidence when comparing OSS with closed software? Statistics for internet browsers are common – published vulnerabilities, known exploits, time to fix
  • Key question for HMG is – all things being equal, open code means vulnerabilities can be discovered and exploited before there is time to fix

2. Buy-not-Build. Can OSS actually benefit HMG because HMG doesn’t want custom or re-engineered software?

  • HMG generally asks IT suppliers to build systems from COTS components and minimise customisation and re-engineering – it doesn’t want to maintain special code because of cost and risk. So does a significant benefit of OSS not apply to HMG?

3. Legal advice for OSS

  • OSS has some unique legal aspects compared with commercial software – where to get advice? Myths around legal obstacles and obligations are going unchallenged.
  • Patents and liability issues are often raised – resolved by major OSS suppliers who will shield customers?

4. Long Term Strategy

  • OSS won’t happen overnight.
  • Should we work backwards from insisting on open information formats for HMG interactions with the public and other sectors? This way the use of open standards compliant software filters back into HMG organisations.

5. Other Ideas

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