The end of open source down the Counts Louse?
The UK public sector has been characterised as an impregnable fortress as far as open source software is concerned. While public sector bodies in other countries are adopting open source (news passim), the British public sector is a virtual closed shop for advocates of openness (in terms of software).
This dire situation has been further reinforced by the proposed actions of our very own dear (do you mean dear in the sense of expensive or affection? Ed.) Bristol City Council.
News reaches then lab via the grapevine and a recent FoI request that the City Council is to abandon its open source Star Office office suite and replace it with Microsoft Office 2010. The text of the FoI request reads:
This is a request for information made under the Freedom of Information Act. I understand the council has recently decided to ‘upgrade’ its office IT systems by installing Microsoft Windows 7 and Office 2010.
I would be grateful if you could let me know the overall cost of these actions.
I would also like to know if any open source alternatives were considered. If they were, I would like to know which systems/packages were considered and the reasons they were rejected.
Bristol City Council was widely praised for its vision when it adopted Star Office as opposed to MS Office. Indeed, Gavin Beckett of the City Council stated in a conference presentation that one of the reasons for the council’s adoption of the open source office suite was that renewing the Microsoft Office licence would have resulted in a 1 percentage point increase in Bristol’s council tax.
Money is now much tighter in the public sector, so we’re wondering how the council is going to pay for the Office 2010 licence, particularly as council tax has been capped. Will public services and/or staff be cut to pay for the Counts Louse’s largesse to Microsoft? Perhaps someone – councillor or officer – from BCC would like to comment below.
Finally, another indirect effect of BCC’s return to the closed source fold is that this will have a negative effect on efforts to have Open Document Format (ODF) adopted as the standard means of exchange for public documents – something that is a reality in some of the UK’s EU partners.