UK government picks first open standards in bid to dodge vendor lock-in

UK government picks first open standards in bid to dodge vendor lock-in

Summary: The UK government has adopted its first two open standards under its plan to shift departments away from proprietary systems.


The UK's Cabinet Office has selected the first two open standards as part of its plan to reduce technology bills and improve interoperability.

Here are another 51 million reasons why the cloud is winning

Here are another 51 million reasons why the cloud is winning

Here are another 51 million reasons why the cloud is winning

The two standards endorsed by the government's recently established Open Standards Board are HTTP/1.1 URL and Unicode UTF-8. The former should help organisations be able to reuse public sector information down the track with the introduction of consistent identifiers for things like schools, hospitals or companies in government datasets to ensure meanings stay consistent over time. The Unicode UTF-8 standard is meant to prevent corruption of text between systems.

The government's push for open standards is meant to cut technology costs and level the playing field between open source and proprietary software vendors. The Cabinet Office says it hopes the standards will also help agencies move away from long-term deals with a small number of suppliers.

"The adoption of the first open standards for government technology is a landmark," Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said in a statement. 

"We have always said that open standards are vital for making our technology cheaper, more connected and better suited to providing public services that are digital by default and designed around what users need."

The 10-person Open Standards Board was set up in April, chaired by the government's CTO Liam Maxwell.

A draft standard concerning "metadata and controlled vocabularies" was also proposed last week, but, according to Maxwell, any further news on its adoption has been deferred until the board finds a clearer use case for the standard. 

Earlier this year the Cabinet Office encouraged departments to deploy open standards in all procurement specifications — a move that the Business Software Alliance claimed disadvantaged vendors using proprietary standards.

Separately, the government's also pushing for open source software to be the default choice for departments, and where proprietary or on-demand software is needed, to ensure open standards interfaces are available to help avoid vendor lock-in. 

Topics: Government, Enterprise Software, Government UK, Open Source, United Kingdom

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Is this a joke ? Is it april yet ?

    What does it mean they adopt http 1.1 ? They use applications that already adopted http protocol - it is out of their hands; same with UTF8.

    Are they deluding themselves or are govt officials just plain stupid ?
  • Must read with bad British accent

    Yes, yes we know HTTP/1.1 URL and Unicode UTF-8 are hardly avoidable, but we Brtitts are dreadfully cautious, you see!