Conference: Open Source in the Public Sector

“The country is in an economic crisis…”

That’s how the description of Kable‘s upcoming conference on Open Source in the Public Sector begins, and it’s becoming a regular theme in marketing in every sector. This morning brings news that Microsoft is planning to air a series of TV ads that attacks Apple’s pricing as inappropriate in these cash-starved times. In the light of this, Steve Ballmer’s assertion last week that Apple customers are essentially paying upwards of $500 else for a logo and nothing else looks like a teaser for the ad campaign. Ballmer’s sound-bite was taken up by noted open source blogger Glyn Moody who mischievously suggested that this was Ballmer’s backhanded way of acknowledging Windows had lost the fight against Linux to be the pre-eminent OS on the low-priced, tiny and increasingly popular sub-laptops known as netbooks. After all, writes Moody:

“who’s going to pay extra money just to get the Windows logo on a netbook, when they can get the same features for less with free software…?”

Clearly the IT sector is in the mood to be wooed with promises of low prices. In the public sector too, as this blog has mentioned in the past the February 2009 Cabinet Office action plan Open Source, Open Standards and Reuse strongly promoted the consideration of free and open source software:

“Open Source has been one of the most significant cultural developments in IT and beyond over the last two decades: it has shown that individuals, working together over the Internet, can create products that rival and sometimes beat those of giant corporations; it has shown how giant corporations themselves, and Governments, can become more innovative, more agile and more cost-effective by building on the fruits of community work…”

and adding the following imperative added to public policy on IT procurement:

“Where there is no significant overall cost difference between open and non-open source products, open source will be selected on the basis of its additional inherent flexibility.”

This document should perhaps be read in the light of the Chancellor Alistair Darling’s demand that public sector IT should find effiency savings of £5bn before 2011…

Clearly this is an appropriate time for an event such as Kable’s (disclosure: OSS Watch supports this event and will be speaking at it) which invites delegates from the public and not-for-profit sectors to come and hear about the pros and cons of free and open source adoption and to discuss the issues with others in the same position. As well as attendees and speakers from OSS Watch, there will be representatives from across the public sector and from the Open Source Schools project, the Open Source Consortium, the British Computer Society’s Open Source Specialist Group and noted think-tank the Centre for Policy Studies. It looks to be an interesting event. Hope to see you there…

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  1. Pingback: Conference: Open Source in the Public Sector at OSS Watch team blog | Open Hacking

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