U.K.-funded initiative to push open source

Project will promote use of open-source tools within the public sector by creating a code repository, among other efforts.

A government-funded initiative in the United Kingdom aims to accelerate the use of open-source software within the public sector by creating a code repository and a directory of open-source providers, among other efforts.

The initiative, known as the Open Source Academy, is funded by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's e-Innovations investment program. It is due to be formally announced later this month.

Mark Taylor, the executive director of the Open Source Consortium, one of the organizations involved in the initiative, said the U.K. public sector is lagging behind other European countries in terms of open-source adoption, but he says this project is likely to change that.

"This project is critical to allowing us to crack the public sector in the U.K.," Taylor said.

The academy will include various projects, including a platform based on open-source technologies that will allow local authorities to collaborate on software projects. This project, which will be run by Shepway District Council, will be similar to Sourceforge.net, a Web site that catalogs thousands of open-source applications. "It will be a Sourceforge for councils," Taylor said.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister had not responded to requests for comment at the time of writing.

Local authorities can already share code through Web sites such as the Local Authority Software Consortium, but Taylor says the collaborative effort is limited as it runs on proprietary Microsoft technology.

Councils will also be encouraged to share their experiences on deploying open-source software.

"One of the things we're doing is pushing out news on open-source deployments," Taylor said. "For example, did you know that Powys has been using open-source software for eight years, and is running Linux on 100 servers?"

Taylor said the project would disprove the theory that only poorer councils adopt open source. "This is not true," he said.

Other projects included in the initiative are a portal for government agencies to find information on open-source suppliers, and a professional accreditation scheme for open-source consultants.

Various organizations are involved in the Open Source Academy, including the Bristol, Cheshire, Birmingham and Shepway councils, the National Computing Centre, the University of Kent, the Institute of IT Training, OpenForum Europe, the Open Source Consortium and public sector IT user group Socitm.

Ingrid Marson of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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