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UK government goes open source with £200m Microsoft Office contract threatened

UK government ministers are considering abandoning Microsoft software in favour of a more affordable open source strategy that could save millions on IT spending by using programs such as OpenOffice and Google Docs.

Related: UK government renews Microsoft EA for 180,000 seats

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude believes that switching from Microsoft’s Office suite to programs that produce documents in the open document format [.odf] would save a significant chunk of the £200 million that has been spent by the public sector on Office since 2010, according to The Guardian.

"The software we use in government is still supplied by just a few large companies. A tiny oligopoly dominates the marketplace,” read a statement from Maude. "I want to see a greater range of software used, so civil servants have access to the information they need and can get their work done without having to buy a particular brand of software.”

Maude went on to explain that the decision will allow departments to easily share documents with each other and further than that it enables the public to “use and share government information” more easily, but he was by no means excluding any one product.

“It’s not about banning any one product or imposing an arbitrary list of standards. Our plan, as you would expect, is about going back to the user needs, setting down our preferences and making sure we can choose the software that meets our requirements best,” Maude said.

The Sprint 14 speech, which is primarily focused on cutting IT spending across government departments, also went on to highlight the success the public sector is enjoying with the new G-Cloud procurement system and the money it is already saving by using UK SMEs.

“One great example of the potential from small businesses was when we retendered a hosting contract. The incumbent big supplier bid £4 million; a UK-based small business offered to do it for £60,000. We saved taxpayers 98.5%,” Maude said.

Related: Government-backed £37.5m fund launched to assist UK firms

He added that spending on CloudStore, where SMEs can offer services to the public sector, has totalled £78 million to date with 53 per cent going to SMEs and that its his ambition to increase public sector spending with small businesses to £100 million by the next General Election.

Jamie Hinks
Jamie Hinks

Jamie is a freelance writer with over eight years experience writing for online audiences about technology and other topics. In his time writing for ITProPortal he wrote daily news stories covering the IT industry and the worldwide technology market, as well as features that covered every part of the IT market, from the latest start ups to multinational companies and everything encompassed by the IT sector. He has also written tech content for our sister publication, TechRadar Pro. Jamie has since moved into sports betting content and is Content Manager at Betbull.