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Government mandates 'preference' for open source

In digital public services, open source software is clearly the way forward

Liam Maxwell, government CTO

Computer Weekly - The government has, for the first time, mandated a preference for using open source software for future developments.

The new Government Service Design Manual, released as a beta version on 14 March and effective from April, lays out the standards that must be used for all new digital public services developed across Whitehall.

In a section titled “When to use open source”, the manual says: “Use open source software in preference to proprietary or closed source alternatives, in particular for operating systems, networking software, web servers, databases and programming languages.”

Government IT reformers in the Cabinet Office have worked to introduce a level playing field for open source against proprietary software products, which was embodied in the open standards principles published in November last year.

But this is the first time that government IT policy has gone as far as expressing a formal preference to use open source.

The design manual says that proprietary products must only be used in “rare” circumstances.