Open source & Bristol City Council – a brief(ish) round-up
Information is slowly emerging about the future of open source – or its end – at Bristol City Council (news passim). The Counts Louse has for the most part been a lone flag-bearer for open source since its brave (and now reversed) decision to ditch MS Office and adopt an open source alternative some 5 or so years ago; the only other English local authority to show any enthusiasm for open source is the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead.
A couple of weeks ago, came the surprise announcement that Sirius Corporation, one of the country’s leading open source suppliers, had had its open source consultancy with Bristol City Council abruptly terminated. This story has been covered extensively by Computer Weekly in both its IT Management and blog sections, as well as by Bristol 24/7.
One consequence of the end of the relationship between Sirius and Bristol City Council is that Bristol will be missing out on some new jobs being created – and Bristol has based a large part of its employment strategy on developing the digital/creative industries. On 18th June Sirius’ Chief Executive Mark Taylor tweeted:
Well I’m very sorry to say that we’ve just cancelled our (well advanced) plan to open an office in the city centre 🙁
As one of the country’s leading open source outfits had abandoned Bristol, one might begin to question the City Council’s commitment to open source. Indeed, your correspondent, cunningly disguised as a member of the public, emailed council leader Barbara Janke about the council’s commitment to open source, highlighting the reliability, lack of licensing fees and lower support costs of open source. Another point I raised with Barbara Janke was the fate of Cllr Mark Wright, the cabinet member with responsibility for IT in the last council and a firm open source advocate, as he did not feature in the new cabinet after the May 2011 council election.
Barbara Janke’s reply is reproduced below.
You are correct that Mark was not re-elected to the Lib Dem cabinet this time. In the current cabinet I have responsibility for ICT in the current cabinet. The commitment to open source remains the same. Mark continues to advise me on this. The council is also heavily engaged with the external digital media and creative sector and this area lies within my area of responsibility.
So there you have it. Bristol City Council remains committed to open source. Perhaps someone less trusting of the City Council than your ‘umble scribe should file a FoI request to ask the council just how far their commitment stretches.
As regards the fate of Mark Wright, Mark Ballard of Computer Weekly has done some fine investigatory work and discovered that Wright’s ousting from the cabinet was a result of internal party politics, not part of a conspiracy to do down open source wherever it reared its head in the public sector. Read Mark Ballard’s Computer Weekly post.