A UK government-funded initiative aims to accelerate the use of open source software within the public sector, through various activities including the creation of a government-specific code repository and a directory of open source providers.
Mark Taylor, the executive director of the Open Source Consortium (OSC), which is one of the organisations involved in the initiative, said the UK public sector is lagging behind other European countries in terms of open source take-up, but claimed this project is likely to change that.
"This project is critical to allowing us to crack the public sector in the UK," said Taylor.
The initiative, known as the Open Source Academy, is funded by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's e-Innovations investment programme. It is due to be formerly announced later this month.
The ODPM had not responded to requests for comment at the time of writing.
The Academy includes various projects, such as a platform based on open source technologies that will allow local authorities to collaborate on open source software projects. This project, which will be run by Shepway District Council, will be similar to Sourceforge.net, a Web site which catalogues thousands of open source applications. "It will be a Sourceforge for councils," said Taylor.
Local authorities can already share code through Web sites, such as the Local Authority Software Consortium, but Taylor claims 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," said Taylor. "For example, did you know that Powys has been using open source software for eight years, and is running Linux on 100 servers?"
"We want to prove that open source is what the winners adopt," said Taylor. "There have been suggestions that only poorer councils adopt open source — this is not true."
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.
"How does the government know it is getting a good Iptables guy or a good Samba guy?" said Taylor. "Accreditation will show that this [consultant] is a Samba guy and that he's qualified to deploy Samba."
Various organisations are involved in the Open Source Academy including Bristol, Cheshire, Birmingham and Shepway Council, the National Computing Centre, the University of Kent, the Institute of IT Training, OpenForum Europe, the Open Source Consortium and Socitm — the professional association for public sector IT managers.