The organisation responsible for the UK government's procurement policy has opted for Linux to underpin its new online purchasing system.
The Office of Government Commerce (OGC) hopes the system will allow public sector bodies to buy products more quickly, more easily and more cost effectively.
Called Purchase & Pay, the Linux-based system is being operated by OGCbuying.solutions only for customers in the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP). It is currently used for the purchase of printed forms, stationery and associated items but in the long term is likely to encompass a much wider range of goods and services.
A facility that allows the online payment of invoices will be incorporated in the coming months.
Hugh Barrett, chief executive of OGCbuying.solutions, said: "Our decision to use open-source software was based on its proven reliability, portability and lower licensing costs. Overall it represented best value for money in this application."
The experience gained from the development of the new system will be taken into account as part of OGC's strategy to support the development of fully interoperable 'cross-government' e-procurement systems. This strategy will eventually allow all public sector departments and agencies to share information on suppliers and pricing, with this first step suggesting that the prospects for the widespread use of open source in government are good.
Martin Sykes, executive director of OGC's E-commerce Directorate and the man responsible for driving forward the government's e-procurement strategy, said: "This work will give us access to valuable experience in the operation of open-source software, while contributing to DWP's needs for improved efficiency and effectiveness."
IBM supplied the server hardware for the system and also acted as prime contractor for Belmin, the supplier responsible for the implementation of EROS software -- based on IBM's Informix U2 product -- onto the Linux open-source architecture. Cable & Wireless provided the network infrastructure and will support the hardware element of the new system.
Rebecca George, director, UK government business, IBM UK, said: "By selecting Linux for Purchase and Pay, OGC is benefiting from the value for money that open-source software can offer government IT projects."