Monday, 5 May 2008

Government interest in 'open source'

The day after the local elections Becta put out a tender for a project to promote 'open source' adoption and development in UK schools. There are two points to note about this - the timing and the performance indicators they chose. If you wish to the the tender documents I've made them available through GoogleDocs.

The Timing

OK - when it comes to politicians I'm a cynic. My reading of the sequence is as follows:

  1. The Tory party received a briefing paper on FOSS.
  2. Cameron makes a speech about open source. This may have been timed to prevent the Labour party responding rapidly, because of the purdah rules about making announcements in the run up to elections.
  3. The day after the local elections, this tender is published.
  4. The period of the project is set to run until just after the expected date for the general election.

I expect that if you look around you will find the most government agencies have just released similar tenders, all designed to counter the spin doctors' expectation of the Tory manifesto.

The Performance Indicators

If you have a look through the KPIs in this tender, you will find they are trivial. I am a member of several free software in schools mailing lists - at least two of them already exceed the KPIs for discussion, and the community developed Schoolforge UK exceeds the communication ones.

This is incredible - the authors of the tender document clearly haven't done their homework. I guess that anyone tendering on this will have to take advantage of the opportunity offered to increase these KPIs.

Conclusion

Is the intent to appear to be doing something? Is this a conspiracy to side track the free and open source communities? No, yet again its a cock-up from a government agency who are looking for the easiest way to fulfil the tasks set them by their political bosses.