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Leaders and decision makers from across public sector and central government converged today in London for the Open Source Open Standards conference.

With David Munn, Head of Information Technology at Greater London Authority, presenting his retrospective on the digital transformation of London.gov.uk and our central role in this success naturally we were in attendance. Promoting the benefits of Agile development, celebrating substantial cost savings and freedoms achieved through Open Source, David signalled the release of the new Mayor of London website as just the beginning.

Kicking the conference off Simon Phipps, Director at The Document Foundation, heralded “Open Source is the the new normal”. Over the past few years we have seen a major shift in mindset in UK Government towards Open Source Software (OSS).

The remaining organisations yet to benefit from Open Source evidently have decision makers poised to make the move away from proprietary software. Beyond cost savings, it’s about placing control back in the hands of organisations. Open source comes with many freedoms.

Tim Britten, Product Owner of HMRC's Digital Tax Platform at HM Revenue & Customs, gave a compelling account of how through Open Source principles .Gov have transformed public services. He recounted the bad old days where twice yearly releases required mission control style large teams and had associated high risk and stress. Today HMRC have evolved user centric Agile practices allowing daily releases, promote high availability and most importantly public services which set new benchmarks.

Marina Latini, The Document Foundation, talked about how her organisation had fostered collaboration on a vast scale to achieve tools like LibreOffice and how the principles of  being "Strong, stable, enduring" were vital to their success. She was keen to dispel common false truths of open source like “Free software is for technical people”, “Key features are missing”,”It’s free, this must be a trap”.

Dr Maha Shaikh, Warwick University Business School, presented research evidencing that prejudice against open source is evaporating fast. Open Source is an enabler for organisations to become more resourceful and innovative. Indeed similar organisations can pool resources and achieve great things.

On security and open source Peter Coates, Integration Digital Care Record Programme Manager NHS England, asserted “there is empirical evidence from GCHQ that there is no greater risk associated with Open Source when compared to proprietary software”. Indeed he asserted “would you trust your life on a piece of software you can’t see? … The millions of pairs of eyes upon OSS software is a great reassurance”.

Open Source fits well in the health space. NHS trusts are choosing open source not due to licence models, but because it does the job better. When asked when would OSS become the standard, Peter reflected that “when the money starts to run out we see the most innovation”. In this era of austerity and post Brexit perhaps we are poised for even greater adoption of open source and a new brighter era.

If you're interested in reading our case study on how we used Agile development and Open Source technologies to build London.gov.uk you can have a read:

Case Study: The digital transformation of London.gov.uk

About the author

Paul Johnson
Paul Johnson
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As a company director, Paul is responsible for leading our strategy in relation to culture and people. This work has strongly contributed to our enviable staff retention levels. His pragmatic approach, combined with a development career spanning two decades, is a valuable asset to clients approaching challenging and large scale digital projects. These include SONY Pictures Entertainment, King's College London, Travelodge, Great Ormond Street Hospital.

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