The high price of ignoring open source in the UK

Open source could help the UK to help itself.

Of many ways to get what you want,
I use the best. I use the rest.
I use the enemy. I use anarchy.

Ah, the Sex Pistols. Who knew that they would sing of open source so many years before it became a commercial powerhouse? And who knew that open source would go so neglected in the Sex Pistols' homeland, the United Kingdom?

As The Guardian points out, this neglect costs the UK dearly:

It turns out, in contrast to what other governments are doing, that most departments - including Health, Work and the Foreign Office - are so risk-averse they have virtually no open source in their IT infrastructures. The Treasury runs less than 1% of its operations with open source. The Conservatives, who rightly believe Labour is vulnerable in this area, claim that nearly £700m could be saved by switching to open source....[I]n the long run, low maintenance costs plus the absence of licence fees and upgrade charges must give open source the edge and, even if it didn't, there is still a strong case for encouraging it because a workforce skilled in open source would be well placed to exploit the enormous opportunities opening up for the future.

Schools are not much better, a double tragedy because they not only don't benefit from savings but also lose the opportunity to train children in the skills of the future....

This, despite overwhelming evidence that open source works fantastically well and is in heavy use globally:

This is not a view shared by Google or Amazon - both huge users of open source. It was strongly disputed by a representative from Malmaison, the very cool hotel group which has put most of its operations on to open source for one simple reason: "high performance and low cost". Alfresco, a British software company which has been successful in the US and has a 100,000 user project with the European Commission, reported that barely 5% of its business is in the UK.

I share that last little tidbit for two reasons: 1) to show just how big some of these open-source implementations are (Disclosure: I work for Alfresco) and 2) to point out, in micro, what the UK is giving up. Alfresco does very little business in its homeland, despite hefty interest in our software elsewhere. How can this be good for the UK to always be buying abroad from Microsoft, SAP, Oracle, etc.?

I'm a political conservative, so I can appreciate the UK's conservative attitude, generally. But at some point it becomes radical to moor oneself in the past. The UK is at that point. It's increasingly the safe, conservative thing to do to adopt open source. Sticking with proprietary lock-in? You must be a flaming radical!! :-)

Bonus round: Glyn Moody points to some excellent follow-up on the article.

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Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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