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Government bodies must comply with open standards

Open standards body welcomes move as a step forward for the UK software market.

Government

The UK government has moved to make all governmental bodies comply with open standards to avoid vendor lock-in and promote government IT interoperability, the Minister for Cabinet Office, Francis Maude announced this week.

He said that compliance with Open Standard principles would make UK government less expensive, more open and better connected. All bodies must comply with the principles unless they apply for exemptions.

Maude said that 409 million has been saved on IT services in the first six months of this year already.

"Government must be better connected to the people it serves and partners who can work with it - especially small businesses, voluntary and community organisations," said Maude.

"Having open information and software that can be used across government departments will result in lower licensing costs in government IT, and reduce the cost of lock-in to suppliers and products."

Maude added that it was only right that the government was encouraging competition and creating a level playing field for all companies to "ensure we are getting the best price for the taxpayer."

The government said that consultations with the public showed that 70 per cent of respondents believed the principles set out would drive innovation, competition and choice within government IT provision. The sames percentage believed it will also save money.

"The UK government sets an example that governments elsewhere should aspire to," said Karsten Gerloff, president of the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE), of the new policy and its strong definition of Open Standards.

The move marks a "major step forward towards more competition and innovation in the UK software market," according to the FSFE.

"Open Standards are really a choice between free competition on the one hand, and leaving the market to a few big players on the other hand. It's great to see that the UK government puts the country's interests first, and refuses to be constrained by the bad old ways of doing things", Gerloff added.

"This policy will open up the market and remove barriers to entry, promoting innovation and competition."

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