Lead architect at Home Office says some people in government are missing savings opportunities by harbouring security fears about open source
The government is missing opportunities to make significant savings by dismissing open source software when procuring products, Tariq Rashid, lead architect at the Home Office, has said.
Rashid, whose role covers information, applications, infrastructure, open standards, and open source, told the Open Gov Summit in London that he has had “lots of battles internally” with the IT security team at the Home Office around open source.
“There is a fear in government that sometimes if we use open source, we’ve exposed ourselves and that isn’t the case. It enables innovation, it gives you flexibility to change,” he said. “There’s a debate about whether it’s free or not. You can access the software for free, but clearly you’ll have to pay for support if you want it.”
He said that a major problem was that open source often isn’t even considered as an option.
“Our objective is not to have a target for the use of open source in government, our objective is not to have a year on year increase, our objective is to best exploit the opportunities that are out there,” he said.
“Sometimes they might be open source and sometimes they might not be. At the moment we believe that we’re missing out on opportunities.”
He stressed that the argument that open source is not secure “doesn’t wash” anymore and is “not right”. The fact that the National Technical Authority for Information Assurance, CESG, has addressed the issue by issuing guidance should be enough to dispel these myths, according to Rashid. “Myths around security is a biggie,” he added.
In February, Liam Maxwell, the government’s deputy chief information officer, made similar comments about myths around open source. He told an IT event that open source and open standards were the direction for UK government IT, and that it was time to dispel misconceptions about the technology.
Rashid went on to say that although the government wasn’t “super mature” about working with open source, there were pockets of excellence in government.
As part of this process of development, he said, over the last year Whitehall has started to point the finger less at the market and more at itself.
“As a customer, you get what you deserve. You can’t afford to rely on the market to do something for you,” he said. “We need to be as sharp as the market.”
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