Computerworld and the Financial Times report that George Osborne, Shadow Chancellor (UK equivalent of Secretary of Treasury in waiting) has demanded that the government invest more in open source. He claims that open source can save 5% of the government's IT budget and £600M ($1.15B). Only 5%! I'm sure it can be a lot more than that.
Being a British software company, you would think that the UK government would be all over Alfresco as an open source alternative to American software. After all, governments all over Europe are adopting Alfresco for document management, records management and starting to develop web sites. Local and Central governments in France and Spain have been using Alfresco for nearly two years now. Even the US Federal Government is adopting Alfresco faster than the UK government. As John Powell mentioned in our BBC radio interview, the UK government has been shy about open source.
Aside from being very conservative in outlook, the UK government has had a great deal of influence peddling from American IT companies. The near complete disappearance of software and hardware manufacturers has not been helped by the mishandling of projects like the massive £6B NHS computer re-engineering project. Tony Blair has not really helped with his desire to build a friendship with the richest man in world.
Open source probably represents the best opportunity to rebuild the industry that had been the pioneer in Information Technology. The electronic computer was actually invented at Bletchley Park in the Colossus project during World War II. The first business computing application was built to run the Lyons' Tea Houses and maintain stock. Virtual Memory was invented at Manchester University and Maurice Wilkes at Cambridge University invented stored programs and micro-programming for modern CPUs. In my particular field, it was two Brits, Codd and Date, invented relational database technology.
Enabled by the Internet and available to anyone in the world, open source can happen anywhere. However, it is more likely to happen where the government encourages the use of open source and saves money in the process. No special favors to British companies, but no special favors as well to the incumbents just because they are incumbent.