Several organisations in favour of open standards, free and open source software believe that the Government of the United Kingdom should quickly start implementing its open standards policy. They insist that the Government must leverage truly open innovative technologies to achieve long term savings. The Open Forum Europe, the Free Software Foundation Europe, the Open Source Consortium and Free and Libre Open Source Software UK, published their call on Tuesday, 24 April 2012.
Those organisations moreover believe that the government should adopt a clear definition of what constitutes an open standard. They say: "The government should not do anything which will result in the imposition of a stealth tax upon citizens, for example by requiring them to purchase specific products for interacting with online public services."
They also request that the Government allow "anybody and everybody" to participate in public sector procurement, regardless of their businesses model.
"Commitment to these points is critical", the organisations continue "if the government is to achieve its stated aims of a more competitive and diverse market for public contracts, reduction of barriers to participation in public sector IT affecting small and medium size enterprises, and realisation of the potential benefits of its existing Open Data strategy."
The Free Software Foundation Europe and its sister organisation FSF in the United States issued a statement later this week, calling on their supporters to participate in the consultation.
The British government is seeking opinions on its open standards policy. The main question is whether or not the definition of open standards should exclude the standards that rely on patents made available on the so-called Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms, in favour of standards where the patents are made available on a royalty-free basis. The latter is the case for almost all of the standards that the Internet and the World Wide Web rely upon.
Advocates of free and open source say FRAND makes it impossible to implement standards in open source software. Advocates of proprietary software argue that the definition is too narrow.
Originally the deadline to respond to the consultation was Tuesday, 1 May 2012. However, the UK Cabinet Office decided to throw out the results from a first meeting on the consultation, after finding out that the meeting's facilitator had not declared that he was being paid by a proprietary software vendor to provide consulting services. It made clear that because of this, the consultation would be extended for an additional month.