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Government IT procurement – telling it like it is

Over at Computer World UK, Tony Collins currently has a most revealing report on the state of UK government IT procurement taken from a House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee session, during which it interviewed Martin Rice, CEO of software company Erudine.

Besides references to cartels and an “oligarchy of government IT suppliers”, the committee’s exchanges with Mr Rice also lifted the veil on attitudes within Whitehall and their regular IT suppliers to open source, as follows:

Open standards and open source

“…You bring in Open Standards. You say, ‘To deliver that service, it has to meet x’. You audit what they are doing and if it meets that standard, the citizen can go to them. You can bring it in [IT connections with the public] through standards.”

“… Facebook is an interesting example; they developed some software called Cassandra. It is a globally scalable database, they decided they did not want to own it so they put it as part of the Apache Open Source stack.

“It is available to the world and it has a very large group of developers working on the code. It is a brilliant piece of software and it is free. Now it is not free, because you will pay people to use it, you will pay maintenance support, but you are not locked into an adversarial relationship.

Jenkin: What about the security problems? Facebook is notorious for its lack of security.

Rice: That is beyond the scope of today to go into that, and I believe it is a red herring. If you were to take a copy of Facebook and say, ‘Let’s use it for Government,’ it would be unsuitable, but that does not mean the underlying technologies are not capable of delivering this.

Open source doesn’t have big hospitality budgets and lobbyists

“I am yet to find Open Source to have a salesman who takes everybody out to lunch. A lot of procurements are sorted in the wine bar, over lunch or on the golf course, so I see that as a problem for Open Source systems with very good software out there…

“A friend of mine was an MEP a few years and said as a tongue in cheek joke, ‘Microsoft had a bigger delegation there than most Member States.’

“So the Open Source community did not have a large delegation there and Microsoft keeps the stranglehold. ..

Read the original report in full.

Hat tip: Mike Simons