A new government-backed open source information portal has been launched in the UK to give local authority representatives more information and advice about the potential use of open source software.
The Open Source Academy, which is partly funded by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and brings together open source projects at numerous local authorities across the UK, has expanded its online presence with new services including expert advice.
The OSA is a consortium led by Birmingham City Council and was set up to encourage the use of open source software in the public sector by challenging perceptions and concerns about its use.
Among its projects is the Open Source Laboratory, which was set up at the UK’s National Computing Centre in June 2005 to provide a facility where local authorities can trial open source applications and configurations without disrupting their existing configurations.
Other projects include Birmingham City Council’s Linux desktop deployment project across its public libraries, and the use of StarOffice and OpenOffice.org at Bristol City Council, as well as porting services, and recycling older PC hardware.
Details of these projects can be found at the new www.opensourceacademy.gov.uk/ website, along with news, product and services information, discussion forums, and the Ask an Expert service. The latter is provided by open source promotion firm, OpenForum Europe, which is also part of the OSA along with the University of Kent, the Society of IT Management and the Institute of IT Training.
Generally speaking, the UK government is neutral towards the use of open source software. It was approved by the Office of Government Commerce after proof of concept trials in October 2004 indicated it was a viable and creditable alternative to proprietary software for infrastructure implementations.
Version 2 of the UK Government’s official policy towards open source software was published a week later but only went as far as stating that open source software should be considered alongside proprietary software with contracts awarded on a value for money basis.
Despite that, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister wants to see greater competition in the software market, according to the OSA, and has therefore invested in the organization.