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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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  • by g0tai (625459) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @05:02PM (#45654587)
    Before people blow up :-) - This usually means that the department wasn't permitted to use 'un-vetted/approved/etc' software at that time (it may have been that they actually /wanted/ to use something open source 2 years ago, but various bits of bureaucracy didn't allow for it) This is government after all :-)
  • by Cryacin (657549) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @05:02PM (#45654591)

    Shiplee said: “Technology is moving very rapidly, such things weren’t available as they are today.”

    If you actually read the contents of the article, it seems that Howard Shiplee was taken out of context. (Say it aint so)

    It seems to me that lots and lots of small components were available for the final software product, but due to the complexities of navigating a large bureaucracy, larger systems that closely fit the requirements were needed. At the end of the day, it's just boxes on a piece of paper to an architectural "expert" somewhere. At the end of the day, it's all about risk, and how that risk is managed. The usual trick for middle management to keep their jobs, is to get the risk exported.

    “You would find it very hard to find vendors in the market place to do this work at full risk. So the department took up the risk.”

    Anyone who understands the concept that an entity, both corporate or government can't export risk is deserving of respect. Sure, you can have contracts with vendors that give guaranteed SLA's, but at the end of the day, if a government service goes down, and there's a 100% risk export, for sure when the media gets to it, "IBM messed up, it's not our fault!" simply doesn't cut it. A ton of mud will still stick to those who are beholden to the responsibility of a service that they provide.

    Even financially, the risk that is exported is only ever as good as the other companies working capital and professional indemnity insurance.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @06:07PM (#45655411)

    When the source is open it's easier to vett.

    Both wrong and irrelevant. This isn't about going line-by-line in somebody else's code, this is about having a solid chain of support for when things go wrong. If an organization is willing to spend the time to have their own employees read over a batch of open source code, they would be better off by simply asking those employees to write the same thing themselves, and give them the open source code as an example of something that appears to work.
    I've inherited code before, and honestly, line-by-line reading is worthless. It takes almost as long to understand what an existing piece of code does as it would to write the same thing starting with an empty text file. With proper documentation (hard to find in corporate code and nearly impossible in all but the biggest OSS), it might take half as long to understand pre-existing code as to rewrite it.

    Now, assuming you actually read that and aren't just going to trollvote me because I dared type something ill of OSS as the solution to all the world's ills, I conclude with my premise. A responsible organization does not vet a piece of software, it vets the developers of a piece of software. The capabilities of the software desired will be examined as part of the greater goal of knowing that the providers of that software are competent.

  • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @08:07PM (#45656261)
    I was in a meeting recently where an IBM engineer assured us that we shouldn't use an open source solution because it would "lock us into one technology". Then in the very next sentence he described the IBM product that would do essentially the same thing as the open source software. Everyone in the room had that WTF? expression.
  • Re:WTF? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @08:07PM (#45656263)

    The Minister in charge is a fuckwit, he was such a success as an army officer he was returned to unit. Failed leader of the conservative party.

    The only interesting thing about him is what does he have on Cameron and Osborne etc that they dont dare sack him.

It is the quality rather than the quantity that matters. - Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 B.C. - A.D. 65)