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    The Open Source Behind gov.uk Revealed

    I wonder if it works in IE6?

    While the UK government's plans for wider adoption of open source have been uneven in their application, the new beta version of the gov.uk web site should give proprietary software vendors and contractors pause for thought, as it is almost entirely built on or with open source.
    The just published colophon lists the components of the in-development site. Its Amazon EC2 hosting runs instances of Ubuntu 10.04LTS, with Jetty as application server and Nginx, Apache and mod_passenger as HTTP servers. Jenkins provides a continuous integration service, Varnish provides caching and configuration management is organised by Puppet.

    The code on the site is written mostly in Ruby, with either Rails or Sinatra providing the framework; the developers have organised a github repository with the gems they have created and used to deliver the site. The one exception is the request router which is written in Scala. The developers began building the system with MySQL but have been moving over to MongoDB as they "realised how much of our content fitted its document-centric approach". For geocoding, the developers use MySociety.org's MaPit.

    The actual web site is HTML and CSS based and the JavaScript code uses jQuery, jQuery UI and Chosen. An exception to the open source rule was the font used; the developers use Gill Sans from fonts.com. One other notable exception to the use of open source is in collaboration tools; the developers use Campfire for team chats and Google Apps for documents.

    The wider design and development goals of the gov.uk site were introduced by Tom Loosemore, project leader, in a blog posting in which he writes about how the developers aim to "deliver simpler, clearer, faster services for users and savings and innovation for Government". Gov.uk is destined to replace the DirectGov web site and the designers have taken 667 of the things citizens need from government, based roughly on what DirectGov handles, and reformed them to be more "findable, understandable and actionable".

    The beta of the service was only given the go-ahead in August 2011 when lessons had been learned from feedback after creating an alpha version of the site; that also used a lot of open source. The budget for the beta gov.uk site is £1.7 million which the project says it is currently running under. (Source)

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    That's pretty cutting edge for Govt.

    I just wish the Govt. could step in and produce applications that schools and councils could use. If just a fraction of the money they/we spend on capita was put into starting a similar project for schools they would save hundreds of millions over the lifetime of a parliament.

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    localzuk's Avatar
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    Its great to see open source being embraced here, but also to note that they haven't fallen down the same rabbit-hole of 'lets force everything to be open source' that some organisations do, and therefore make it more expensive to develop than it needs be, instead using the best tools for the right jobs.

    Never thought I'd say it, but well done UK govt! Looks like an IT project that went right for once!

    Quote Originally Posted by CyberNerd View Post
    That's pretty cutting edge for Govt.
    Quote Originally Posted by CyberNerd View Post

    I just wish the Govt. could step in and produce applications that schools and councils could use. If just a fraction of the money they/we spend on capita was put into starting a similar project for schools they would save hundreds of millions over the lifetime of a parliament.


    Problem is, they would be stopped as breaching competition rules. They'd instead have to tender out for it, and it'd end up being an inevitable mess.

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    Quote Originally Posted by localzuk View Post
    Problem is, they would be stopped as breaching competition rules. They'd instead have to tender out for it, and it'd end up being an inevitable mess.
    I know. I guess one of the costs of capitalism is that so much tax money gets wasted (i'm no communist btw).

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    According to an article on The Register yesterday, some local authorities are under the impression that they cannot use open source software.

    Speaking at the government ICT conference in London, Ian Levy, technical director at the Communication Electronics Security Group (CESG) said local authorities need to realise the organisation supports the deployment of non-proprietary software for security purposes.

    He highlighted Bristol City Council as an example of one authority that had gone ahead with this approach, despite having originally believed it was prohibited from buying open source.

    "They thought they had to use Novell or Microsoft and the CESG would not have supported its use of open source," Levy said on Tuesday.

    On that occasion he stepped in to explain to the council there were no barriers in place against buying open source technology.



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