The UK is lagging in the use of open source, even though it is now established as the best way to produce and consume software, said speakers at the Open Source Forum, sponsored by Red Hat and its partners, in London.
"The UK is crap," said Graham Taylor, director of industry body OpenForum Europe. "It is the laggard in Europe in the use of open source." He put the blame not on any religious conviction but on poor business decisions, which had led to vendor lock-in, particularly amongst public bodies.
"According to our research, up to 90 percent of public administrations have lost the ability to freely choose their next IT solution," he said, because they have committed to applications which are not supported on other operating systems, or have no way of moving their data to other applications. Three years ago, he said, an Office of Government Commerce study reached the same conclusion: a lot of government departments has signed up for an open-source project, only to leave when they found they were locked in.
The UK government has failed to support open source both as a user and in policies to offer citizen access, Taylor said. He gave the example of the government initially offering the Government Gateway only to users of Microsoft's Internet Explorer. In this regard, however, the European Parliament may be considered equally at fault; a petition is underway on the Open Parliament site to persuade the European Parliament to open up access to MEPs to users of any browsers.
Despite the UK's poor record, however, open-source adoption is continuing to accelerate, Taylor said, quoting a Standish Group report that claimed proprietary vendors are losing £30bn a year to open source. "The open-source movement is no longer the anti-software-industry establishment. It is the software-industry establishment," said Taylor.
Delegates agreed with his upbeat assessment of open source and disappointment with the UK: "People are no longer afraid of open source; they see the [intellectual property] problems are no worse than those in proprietary software," said Gianugo Rabellino, chief executive of Sourcesense, an Italy-based systems integrator with a UK subsidiary. "But what is happening with open source in Britain?"