Government to trade Microsoft Office for open source

Cabinet Minister Francis Maude will later today announce a shift away from proprietary software

Nicole Kobie
29 Jan 2014

The Cabinet Office is set to advise government to standardise on file formats and end its dependence on proprietary software - such as Microsoft Office.

Cabinet Minister Francis Maude is today expected to announce plans to break away from expensive proprietary software, according to a Press Association report, which said £200 million has been spent by the government on Microsoft Office alone since 2010.

"The software we use in government is still supplied by just a few large companies," he will reportedly say in his speech. "A tiny oligopoly dominates the marketplace."

Technical standards for document formats may not sound like the first shot in a revolution

He will call for a "greater range" of software to be used, so staff aren't limited to one specific brand. He also wants to make it easier to collaborate and share documents.

That, he will say, is best achieved by standardising on document formats, to make it easier to use a wider range of software.

"Technical standards for document formats may not sound like the first shot in a revolution," his speech reads. "But be in no doubt: the adoption of compulsory standards in government threatens to break open Whitehall's lock-in to proprietary formats. In turn we will open the door for a host of other software providers."

SMB focus

Along with those changes, the Cabinet Office will look to boost the number of contracts going to smaller IT companies - a promise the government has made before.

Indeed, the report added that central government purchasing has shifted from 6% in 2010 to 10% now.

"In the civil service there was a sense that if you hired a big multi-national, who everyone knew the name of, you'd never be fired," Maude will say.

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