Some £200 million (US$ 300 million) has been spent by the UK Government on Microsoft’s Office suite alone since 2010. However, Cabinet Minister Francis Maude believes this figure could have been significantly reduced by switching to free open source software such as OpenOffice.
“The software we use in Government is still supplied by just a few large companies. A tiny oligopoly dominates the marketplace,” the Cabinet Minister said.
“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.”
As part of the coalition’s drive to make its procurement more effective and efficient, document formats are set to be standardised across Whitehall to break the oligopoly of IT supplies, and improve communications between civil servants.
“In the first instance, this will help departments to do something as simple as share documents with each other more easily. In addition, it will also make it easier for the public to use and share Government information.”
Maude added that while technical standards for document formats might not sound like a big leap towards this revolution, he explained that the adoption of compulsory standards in government threatens to break open Whitehall’s lock-in to proprietary formats which he believes will open doors for other software providers, particularly small and medium-sized companies.
“In the civil service there was a sense that if you hired a big multi-national, who everyone knew the name of, you’d never be fired. Because of this, we weren’t just missing out on innovation, we were paying top dollar for yesterday’s technology.”
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