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UK government adopts IT open standards policy

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All U.K. national government departments and their agencies are now required to comply with open standards principles outlined in a Nov. 1 document (.pdf) from the Cabinet Office. The open standards policy promotes the use of interoperable information technology systems, data and document formats.

The document encourages local government and the wider public sector to adopt the principles as well. British national government agencies not complying with the new principles must apply for an exemption.

The new policy "will result in lower licensing costs in government IT, and reduce the cost of lock-in to suppliers and products," said the Minister for Cabinet Office Francis Maude in a Nov. 1 statement.

The principles document describes the move as a critical step in leveling the playing field between open source and proprietary IT solutions.

"We need to have a platform for government that allows us to share appropriate data effectively and that gives us flexibility and choice," writes Maude in the document's foreword.

Not all IT is required to be interoperable under the strategy, however. Interoperability through open protocols primarily applies to software, while standards for internal processing within hardware--such as telecommunications hardware--fall outside the scope of the mandate.

Standards selection and the publishing of preferred standards will be ongoing, The entire policy will also be reviewed in 2014 to "account for technology changes or lessons learned from implementation."

According to the document, open standards are to be selected based on their support of flexibility and change, and sustainable cost. They will also be selected and implemented through fair and transparent processes, it adds.

For more:
- download the document, "Open Standards Principles: For software interoperability, data and document formats in government IT specifications" (.pdf)
- read a government press release on the principles

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