Technologic: Brown source

Since 2004, it has been the government's stated policy to use open-source software in the public sector wherever possible, as long as it offers the best value for money. But, so far, the policy has had little impact. Will the latest tweaks to its Action Plan - including an education programme, guidance for procurement and assessment of new products - make a difference?

Software is "open-source" when the source code is freely available to be viewed, shared or changed - things you can't do with traditional, proprietary software. Crucially, it is also often the cheaper option. So, how good is the government's record on using open-source? In its latest action plan, it gives three examples.

First, it says that more than 25 per cent of secondary schools use the Linux operating system on at least one computer: small beer, as the government first published its policy on open-source more than five years ago.

Second, the series of health service databases known as "Spine" uses an open-source operating system.

And third, Birmingham City Council has been rolling out open-source software across its library services since 2005.

These last two instances would be more compelling if they didn't also serve to show just how few major open-source projects there have
been to date.

The government should be congratulated for keeping its open-source Action Plan up to date. Let's see if its open-source words can speak as loud as its proprietary actions.

Jason Stamper is NS technology correspondent and editor of Computer Business Review