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Open Source Government Software United Kingdom

Open Source 'Wasn't Available' Two Years Ago, Says UK Gov't IT Project Chief 113

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-blame-time-travel dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The head of delivery for the UK's Department for Work and Pensions' flagship welfare reform project, Universal Credit, has said that the department didn't adopt open source and web-based technologies at the beginning of the project because 'such things weren't available' two and a half years ago. Howard Shiplee told the Work and Pensions Committee this week that the department is now using open source technologies in its enhanced version of Universal Credit, which was initially developed by the Government Digital Service (GDS) and will be rolled out nationally by 2017 for most claimants. The existing system being used in pathfinder pilots and developed by the likes of IBM, HP and Accenture will be largely be replaced by the digital version."
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Open Source 'Wasn't Available' Two Years Ago, Says UK Gov't IT Project Chief

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  • Summary trolling (Score:5, Informative)

    by ugen (93902) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @04:59PM (#45654545)

    Even though the article is also lean on the details, at least it provides the actual quote, which is:

    "It relies not on large amounts of tin, black boxes, but uses open source and mechanisms on the web to store and access data,” Shiplee told MPs. When asked why he didn’t adopt this approach two and a half years ago at the start of the project, Shiplee said: “Technology is moving very rapidly, such things weren’t available as they are today.”

    Ok, so "such things" - does not necessarily refer to "open source". It may (and probably does) refer to "mechanisms on the web to store and access data". Perhaps something "in the cloud", given that article does not provide sufficient detail - hard to say.

  • by g0bshiTe (596213) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @05:06PM (#45654643)
    Yep, I admit when I read the summary headline I about ROFL'd and had to check my calendar to make sure I didn't hibernate and wake up on 1 April.

    FTFA it appears to be a specific mechanism for pooling their data, not OpenSource itself just there was no opensource solution at the time.
  • Re:WTF? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Bengie (1121981) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @05:19PM (#45654823)
    But nothing is truly free because of the requirement of "time". What does cost more money is legal issues that can easily arise from proprietary software. License management has its own cost.
  • by T.E.D. (34228) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @05:20PM (#45654833)

    I've been using the OpenOffice suite in one of its various previous or successor incarnations for nearly 15 years now, so yeah, its clearly not true that there were no usable Open Source alternatives 2 and a half years ago.

    However, what has happened in the last two and a half years is that Google Docs acquired the capability to use old Microsoft formats (in April of 2010 to be precise) and work offline (September of 2011). If they are using Google Docs and consider all its cloud-based collaboration features along with Microsoft file support and/or offline capability essential features that make their new setup worthwhile, then its perfectly fair to point out that this alternative was not available two and a half years ago.

  • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @05:30PM (#45654939) Journal

    Or it was a terrible misquote of him in the slashdot summary.

    His real quote was

    “The current system for Universal Credit is a conventional system being developed on a waterfall approach. When you look at digital [the enhanced system], it’s very different – it relies not on large amounts of tin, black boxes, but uses open source and mechanisms on the web to store and access data,” Shiplee told MPs.

    When asked why he didn’t adopt this approach two and a half years ago at the start of the project, Shiplee said: “Technology is moving very rapidly, such things weren’t available as they are today.”

    So he might not have meant that opensource wasn't availible, but that the" mechanisims on the web to store and access data" weren't *as* available as they are today. Without knowing what technologies he's using, he could be right. They might not have existed, or have been as mature as they are now.

  • Re:WTF? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @05:35PM (#45654995) Journal

    Open source is free. Saying anything else is crazy fud talk. Opportunity costs apply to everything you do or use. Only a good faith examination of all technologies strengths and weaknesses will allow you to determine the right solution.

    ESR was only looking at the negative side of LInux back in the day. How many people spent time learing linux only to have it lead to a promising career. Far from costing anything for these people, the time spent setting up Linux was money *earned*.

  • Re:WTF? (Score:4, Informative)

    by exomondo (1725132) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @06:15PM (#45655481)
    And of course yes, upon reading the article that is exactly the case:

    “The current system for Universal Credit is a conventional system being developed on a waterfall approach. When you look at digital [the enhanced system], it’s very different – it relies not on large amounts of tin, black boxes, but uses open source and mechanisms on the web to store and access data,” Shiplee told MPs.

    When asked why he didn’t adopt this approach two and a half years ago at the start of the project, Shiplee said: “Technology is moving very rapidly, such things weren’t available as they are today.”

    And the article and summary have misquoted and taken it out of context in order to make it seem as if he thought open source didn't exist 2 years ago. Chalk one up for incompetent flamebait journalism.

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