Open Source in UK Government


open source in uk government

IDC’s latest Worldwide Open Source Software 2009-2013 Forecast reports that global open source software (OSS) revenue was $2.9 billion in 2008, and is expected to grow by 34% in 2009 to $3.9 billion. IDC predict global revenue will grow to reach $8.1 billion by 2013.

This is higher than IDC previously predicted and they attribute their change of mind to the current recession, the growing acceptance of OSS and inclusion of revenue from hybrid products from the larger IT vendors and the Cloud / SaaS vendors.

However, OSS still only represents around 2-3% of the $138 billion market for proprietary software.

I find it intriguing that they see such accelerated growth for proprietary software from now to 2013. It seems to rely on an assumption that the recession will end and we’ll go back to buying software ‘the way we used to’. It doesn’t seem to tally with their other conclusions about growing OSS acceptance and the increase in hybrid products that rely on embedded OSS. Also, how many consumer or enterprise markets have seen a price fall but then recover to former levels? That may happen for commodities, but software-as-a-commodity?

It’s more likely that the days of the traditional enterprise software majors are on the decline. Companies will get more and more comfortable with the idea of paying for support and services rather than per-seat licenses. Will software buyers ever again opt for steep up-front costs and little or no recovery plan in the event of failure when they discover that they can have a pay-as-you-go alternative?

In which case, we will see a far more rapid convergence of the trend lines than is predicted by IDC.

If the private sector is impacted by the recession to re-consider procurement patterns, then the public sector and Government should follow suit. It’s our money and there’s not a great deal of difference between spending tax money on a Banker’s bonus or on yet another IT failed / delayed project.

There’s a new community website / networking group called UKGovOSS that apparently feels the same way. They have published a report which quotes some interesting facts. For example, reported ICT spending by UK local authorities is expected to reach a record level of £3.2 billion of expenditure in 2008/09. The survey found what is commonly seen in the private sector - open source is used extensively for web servers, databases and web publishing tools, but the desktop and end-user applications are mainly proprietary software (Microsoft).

The drivers towards OSS are also familiar - lower cost, freedom from dependency on particular suppliers, and the functionality of the software itself.

CogniDox isn’t used (yet) in the public sector but this is a very worthwhile group and we are happy to join. It will be interesting to see whether the depth of open source talent and skills available in the UK becomes evident to those in power.

It’s already been pointed out by others that the UK Government site on open source is based on Microsoft's ASP.NET web application framework, so there is clearly a way to go yet.

Tags: Open Source Software

Paul Walsh

Written by Paul Walsh

Paul Walsh was one of the founders of Cognidox. After a period as an academic working in user experience (UX) research, Paul started a 25-year career in software development. He's worked for multinational telecom companies (Nortel), two $1B Cambridge companies (Ionica, Virata), and co-founded a couple of startup companies. His experience includes network management software, embedded software on silicon, enterprise software, and cloud computing.