Becta..the first UK quango to go Open Source?

I am writing this late at night not too far in the future; Google is refusing to send my e-mails until I answer some dumb maths questions and my Sat Nav is so critical of my driving that I dare not venture out in my car.

Thus confined to my laptop how about a simple blog on why Becta, the UK's ICT quango will embrace Open Source software? Now that would be unbelievable.

Actually, why shouldn't our Government's quangos start the shift to Open Source software? It's crisis time after all. We are officially in recession, we should all pull together now and save money, let the Gov lead the way.

I think Becta is our best bet as they are the quango that concerns itself with information technology and have published reports, albeit ages ago in 2005 before Open Source software really got into its stride, showing how schools could save money by using Open Source software.

2005 by the way was a good year all round, it was sunny, the country was very wealthy and schools were awash with ring-fenced gov money to buy ICT hardware and software. But as we all now know, times it was all funded on borrowed money and borrowed time and so the lights are going out all over Europe. Saving money ergo saving energy have scooted up the agenda of every company...and, so one presumes, it has for every Gov department.

There are other omens. Not only has the Government reiterated its determination to reduce the nation's carbon output thereby saving the ice sheets and the polar bears (those not already shot by Ms Palin) but it has also placed for the first time an Open Source company on its approved ICT procurement list.

This, to the faithful, means only one thing: low energy open source computing using free software to save the world.

Let's examine the case for Becta leading the way:

  • Becta already has vast experience with Open Source software as part of its ongoing software compatibility evaluation.
  • Becta has pressed hard for interoperability standards viz the School's Interop Framework (SIF) and Open Source software adheres closely to all internationally agreed standards for documents, databases and the web.
  • As an organisation focused primarily on reporting and evaluation Becta requires minimal specialised platform-dependent software. For their suite of proprietary applications there are 'shoe in' free open source replacements available.
  • Becta has good working relationships with all of the most advanced UK Open Source ICT suppliers.

The logic is overwhelming. The UK needs to save money and the Government Offices should lead the way. Becta is uniquely placed to redefine ICT in the Gov sector and to propagate the model deep into other departments.

In fact, and here is a brilliant wheeze, why doesn't Becta throw down as a challenge to all of its accredited ICT suppliers a competition. One to see who can draw up the proposal that saves the most (hardware; software, licences; electricity; paper; support) with the shortest pay back time and the least outlay. Now that would be fun.

OK, what would Becta say to the headline 'Becta to go Open Source'? To all you sceptics out there, sources inside the organisation itself have made it clear that they regard the option as worthy of consideration.

Don't scoff, such a reply would have been unthinkable not so long ago. It'll happen, it has to, without the ice sheets where would the penguins have to play?


Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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