UK gov now ‘prefers’ open-source development

The government of the United Kingdom has taken the first major step (among the main government superpowers of the world) in creating the prototype for an “open source” country. Okay – maybe that’s a little bit of an overstatement – but when Richard Stallman performed his free software song for the first time, I certainly don’t think he had anything this major in mind.

A little background first: for the past couple years, the UK government has been working hard to create guidelines for governmental software development  – The Digital by Default Service Standard . These guidelines were first developed basically to reduce the amount of cruddy software condoned by the UK government (i.e. software that isn’t easily adaptable or shareable). Another main reason that the UK was seeking to create this resource for governmental software developers was to reduce – if not eliminate – the chance of becoming locked in “to some mad oligopoly outsource” – Liam Maxwell, CTO.

This article caught my attention because I was readying about Richard Stallman at the time and it instantly made me think of the 4 principles of free software.  However – this is the first time an entire country is going to change their mode of operation from commercial to open-source software. While I’d like to say that this is the perfect plan and that everyone should follow suit, a feeling in my gut says that the government’s restriction to use only open-source software might undermine the integrity and flexibility that we all associate with the term ‘open-source’. Maybe commercial software is needed to keep a professional standard to code by while open-source software fills the in-between needs of the people.  Either way – this is going to be a great experiment..  What do you guys think?

One Response to UK gov now ‘prefers’ open-source development

  1. While thinking about Stallman’s visit to OSU, I was thinking back on Franky’s post here.

    The article just says “open source”. This only entails one of the four freedoms that Stallman talks about (the freedom to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what you wish). “Open source” does not yet guarantee the other freedoms or copyleft.

    Preventing the kind of software “lock in” the UK government seems worried about definitely requires some of the other freedoms.

    Stallman himself takes great pains to make sure his work is not labeled “open source”. Here is a video of Stallman discussing the difference between free and open source.