[Nottingham] Government OSC derailed after revelation of conflict of interest

James Moore jmthelostpacket at googlemail.com
Fri Apr 27 14:45:28 UTC 2012

Interesting article just popped up on Techweek. Rather than link it, 
I'll post the article here:

TheCabinet Office has confirmed 
the government'sopen source 
<http://www.eweekeurope.co.uk/tag/open-source>consultation process has 
been extended, after a conflict of interest was discovered.

The consultation process,launched in february 
calls on the IT community to define ''open standards' for government, a 
process seen as crucial to getting open source methods more widely used 
in the public sector. However, the results of the consultation's first 
round table have had to be scrapped, because the facilitator, Andrew 
Hopkirk of the National Computing Centre (NCC) had not disclosed a link 
with Microsoft.

    Microsoft Link

The round table, on behalf of ICT Futures on Competition and European 
Interaction on 4 April, was criticised for allowing spokespeople for big 
vendors to argue in favour of paid-for software, specifically giving 
advocates of FRAND (free reasonable and non-discriminatory) the chance 
to argue that free software on RF (royalty free) terms would be a bad thing.

In ablog 
the event, the Cabinet Office's open standards official, Linda Humphries 
said "The majority of the attendees considered that open standards, as 
defined in the policy, would close down the Government's ability to 
benefit from an alternative standards development model and limit our 
choice -- not least because they considered that the definition excludes 
standards that are made available on Fair, Reasonable and 
Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms."

Now, a new blog from Liam Maxwell 
Deputy Government CIO, has revised that. Andy Hopkirk was engaged by the 
Cabinet Office as an independent facilitator on a pro-bono basis. After 
objections were raised, heblogged 
response for Computer Weekly.

is a respected advocate for 'openness and interoperability of systems, 
of people, processes and information technologies'," stressed the 
Cabinet Office. "He has in the past, for example, been an invited 
observer at events such as Open Forum Europe."

"However, at the time he was engaged to facilitate the Open Standards 
roundtable, while we were aware that he represented the National 
Computing Centre (NCC) on the Microsoft Interoperability Executive 
Customer Council (along with 40 other CIOs/CTOs across the public and 
private sector who participate in a voluntary capacity) he did not 
declare the fact that he was advising Microsoft directly on the Open 
Standards consultation," said the Cabinet Office.

"When this came to our attention we asked Dr Hopkirk for an explanation 
and he has told us that he has 'not been paid to specifically write 
their response to the Open Standards consultation but he is engaged to 
help them tease out the issues'," said the Cabinet Office.

It said that this could be seen as a clear conflict of interest and 
should have been declared by the relevant parties at that meeting.

"For this reason any outcomes from the original roundtable discussion 
will be discounted in the consultation responses and we will rerun that 
session and give time for people to prepare for it," it said. "We will 
also run a teleconference as well as a meeting to ensure that everybody 
has a chance to participate."

Furthermore the Cabinet Office declared that the consultation will now 
be extended for an additional month, and that the formal closing date 
for submissions will now be Monday, 4th June 2012.

Dr Hopkirk has defended his position, saying that he maintains a "strict 
firewall" between his activities."I do have a longstanding relationship 
with Microsoft purely on the basis of my consistently neutral, 
pragmatic, end-user oriented and supplier-agnostic perspective," he said 
in his Computer Weekly blog. "I have supported, and continue to support, 
open markets, open standards and free/open source software for their 
contributions to furthering interoperability and IT market competition. "

    Industry Concerns

There are some concerns over the level ofgovernment commitment to open 
especially after a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the BBC last 
September revealed that most government departmentsstill spend the 
lion's share of their IT budgets on software from big-name vendors 
such as Microsoft and Oracle, rather than seeking cheaper open source 

This concern is not helped as basic points on the government ICT policy 
have so far remained unclear, including what is meant by an open 
standard. The way in which "open standard" is defined is crucial, 
because standards accepted as "open" by some may be effectively unusable 
by others.

The government announcedits support for open standards in IT procurement 
in November 
year. The open source and open standards drive in the UK mirrors current 
European thinking on the matter, as the European Union iscurrently 
pushing the open eGovernment services concept strongly 

In March 2011,the government revealed its ICT strategy 
which committed it to creating a common IT infrastructure based on a 
suite of compulsory open standards, and adoptingappropriate open 

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