CABINET OFFICE MINISTER Francis Maude, MP has revealed plans to move the UK government to open source computing to save cash.
Mr Maude has outlined plans to shift UK government departments to the .odf Open Document Format (ODF) and away from Microsoft's proprietary Microsoft Word .doc and .docx formats, freeing users to switch to open source office suites.
Speaking at a cross-parliament showcase today, he told mystified looking ministers, "The software we use in government is still supplied by just a few large companies. A tiny oligopoly dominates the marketplace.
"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," he added.
Maude told journalists that he believes open source software will increase the possibilities for collaboration between departments more effectively through the use of cloud services, while saving a significiant amount of taxpayers money through reduced licensing and support costs.
We spoke with OASIS, the consortium responsible for maintaining the Open Document Format standard. A spokesperson told us, "Certainly, OASIS applauds the use of ODF in the public sector. Our standard is advanced through an open, inclusive process - one that welcomes government participation and input - and the number of products that support ODF continues to grow."
Rob Weir, speaking for the Apache Openoffice Project Management Committee said, "This is great news, a continuation of the general trend we've seen toward the adoption of open standards like ODF.
"With greater use of open standards comes increased interoperability and choice of applications supporting these standards, including the leading free and open source office productivity application, Apache Openoffice.
"Several members of the Openoffice community are also active in the development of the ODF standard at OASIS, so we're doubly gratified to see our work noticed by the cabinet office minister.
"Finally, it is worth mentioning that there is a rich ecosystem of [third] party support and services for Openoffice, including UK based small businesses with public sector experience, that can aid with policy implementation."
Mr Maude's comments come in the wake of delays to the introduction of the government's Universal Credit scheme designed to replace the existing benefits process. That government software system development project has been buffeted by significant problems. µ