UK government consultation on Open Standards

Back in June, I submitted a response (also as pp.35–39 of a PDF on the Cabinet Office’s site) to the UK’s consultation on open standards in government. Today I received an email notifying me of the conclusions to this process. I have read through the UK government’s ‘Principles’ document, and the following snippets are quite encouraging:

‘Open’ includes ‘royalty-free’

I think the big one is the inclusion of ‘royalty-free’ in the requirements for a standard to be ‘Open’:

2. Open standard – definition

Rights – rights essential to implementation of the standard, and for interfacing with other implementations which have adopted that same standard, are licensed on a royalty free basis that is compatible with both open source and proprietary licensed solutions. These rights should be irrevocable unless there is a breach of licence conditions. [p.26–27]

General use of free/open-source software within the UK government

The Government Digital Service has launched GOV.UK – a simpler, clearer, faster and common platform for government’s digital services, based on open source software. [p.1]

Freedom of choice in software

A citizen should be able to choose Free Software to interact with the UK government:

Citizens, businesses and delivery partners must be able to interact with the Government, exchanging appropriately formatted information/data using the software package of their choice. [p.8]

The product choice made by a government body must not force other users, delivery partners or government bodies, to buy the same product e.g. web-based applications must work equally well with a range of standards-compliant browsers, irrespective of operating system, and not tie the user to a single browser or desktop solution. [p.9]

Cost of vendor lock-in

Recognition that cost of breaking free of lock-in is real, and also that it should be attributed to the legacy solution (as opposed to being a cost of moving to a new solution):

Value for money is achieved through avoidance of lock-in and providing a level playing field for suppliers to compete for government IT contracts… [p.14]

As part of examining the total cost of ownership of a government IT solution, the costs of exit for a component should be estimated at the start of implementation. As unlocking costs are identified, these must be associated with the incumbent supplier/system and not be associated with cost of new IT projects. [p.15]

Requirement levels

Raised a smile to see the UK government adopt the IETF’s definitions of ‘must’, ‘optional’, etc.:

1. Requirement levels

In line with RFC 2119: … [p.25]


There were c.480 submissions, and I think it was worthwhile to be one of them.