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Government software Re: [Fsfe-uk] Just a Minute

From: Simon Waters
Subject: Government software Re: [Fsfe-uk] Just a Minute
Date: Mon, 15 Apr 2002 18:28:33 +0100

Martin Coxall wrote:
> > Of course, but what specifically would you expect a national
> > free software organisation to focus on?
> As I have said, Free Software flourishes in a free environment. By
> fighting for freedom, we ensure the long term viability of free
> software.
> > I've suggested we aim specifically to persuade the UK Government
> > to making it's own software developments Free Software.
> I would have thought that most government systems would be bespoke
> in-house stuff developed by companies like EDS and logica, not
> particularly useful free software.

Unless you are another government ;). 

The UK Meteorological Office (excuse the example I know best)
swapped, sold, bought, and made available as open source (I use
this term rather than free as restrictions were placed on use)
software. Be assured the government writes bespoke databases,
languages, middleware, encryption software (okay I doubt they'll
make this freely available). I bet many councils have had the
"same" software written for them, Hospitals have bought the same
management package time and time again.

Yes bespoke customisation will remain, and as Richard Stallman
says this is the majority of software development work. But
government spending is a huge proportion of all spending in this
country that is why they take 40 percent of everything you earn,
and 20% of everything you spend. Trust me, more than enough of
it is spent on software of all types, often from big companies
with extortionate consultancy rates once product lockin is
achieved, to make government spending a significant factor.

Government spending is also the most ameniable to change in some
ways, as a central decision on the licencing to be
preferred/mandated on government software purchases could be

It is likely that groups like the Met. Office as executive
agencies are unlikely to fall under any new legislation of this
type. But for central government, health, social security,
defence, still form the largest spend under control of one
identifiable group, similarly local government spending is huge
and heavily regulated.

It might be that local government purchasing could be handled as
a seperate group for re-education.

"Don't get me started on intuitive. You know what's intuitive?
Fear of heights. Everything else we call intuitive, such as
walking or using a pencil took years of practice." - Don Norman

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