The UK government has released a new Open Standards policy. FSFE welcomes this document as a major step towards more competition and innovation in the UK software market
"With this policy, and in particular with its strong definition of Open Standards, the UK government sets an example that governments elsewhere should aspire to",says Karsten Gerloff, President of the Free Software Foundation Europe. Under the new policy, effective immediately, patents that are essential to implementing a standard must be licensed without royalties or restrictions that would prevent their implementation in Free Software.
Exit costs are another issue where the policy represents significant progress. In future, when UK government bodies buy a software solution, they have to include in the price a calculation of what it will cost them to get out of this solution in the future. This is perhaps the first time that a government has made this long-standing demand of FSFE an explicit policy. It means that government bodies cannot simply avoid buying Free Software solutions because they are locked into one particular vendor's proprietary file formats.
"Open Standards are really a choice between free competition on the one hand, and leaving the market to a few big players on the other hand. It's great to see that the UK government puts the country's interests first, and refuses to be constrained by the bad old ways of doing things", says Gerloff. "This policy will open up the market and remove barriers to entry, promoting innovation and competition.
Experience in other countries shows that achieving real change in the way the public sector buys software will be hard. FSFE therefore believe that the UK government would do well to take advantage of this opportunity and put even greater emphasis on increasing the use of Free Software in the country's public sector. This is an area where the UK still lags behind many other countries by a long margin, and much effort will be required to catch up.
Further analysis by FSFE:
Find more about the UK Government Open Standards policy