The UK’s Conservative Party has promised that it will create ‘a level playing field’ for open source software usage in the UK if it is elected at the next election, in an attempt to save taxpayers more than 600m pounds ($1.1m) a year.
Conservative shadow chancellor, George Osborne, told the Royal Society of Arts: There isn’t a level playing field for open source software. As it stands, too many companies are frozen out of government IT contracts, stifling competition, and driving up costs.
Taking into account the experience of companies and public sector bodies, it is estimated that the Government could save at least 5% of its annual IT bill if more open source software was used as part of a more effective procurement strategy. That adds up to over 600m pounds a year.
He also announced that the Conservative Party has hired Mark Thompson, lecturer in information systems at the Judge Business School at Cambridge University, to advise the party on how to make Britain the open source leader in Europe.
The current Labour government has come in for criticism in some quarters for failing to promote open source software, most recently in the education sector where the British Education Communications and Technology Agency extended an agreement with Microsoft despite concerns over the software giant’s licensing terms and research indicating schools could save money by using open source alternatives.
The UK Government’s official policy towards open source was last updated in November 2004 and takes a typically New Labour third way approach to the issue, stating that open source software should be considered alongside proprietary software with contracts awarded on a value-for-money basis.
Whether the Conservative Party will be in a position to change that policy depends on it beating Labour at the next election, which could be as late as June 2010.