The case for open source in the public sector

Digital transformation has been a real focus for government over the last decade. If we look back at the Covid-19 pandemic and the speed at which life-saving digital services were set up, we see how we can rapidly mobilise and transform public services when we must. This has helped government organisations see the value of digital transformation at larger scale. 

While it’s no secret that budgets are tightening across the public sector, it’s more important than ever to produce real value for money. And so it’s crucial that we  continue to focus on digital transformation to create more efficient services for citizens. One way we can do that is by embracing open-source technology.

More open source please!

To be truly efficient and save money, organisations can’t solely rely on the power of digitalising their services alone. Though digital services are essential in saving time and money, there’s more that can be done. The public sector desperately needs to drive hard for reusable, sustainable technologies. And to do this we need to innovate. 

The challenge here is that most government departments and NHS services operate independently. And this means they work with different providers and use different technologies which lead to wildly different outcomes for end users. 

As digital partners, we have the power to work with the public sector to create meaningful change together. And we can do this by working with organisations to advocate for and implement open-source technology. 

By developing tools and services that are designed in the open to be reused and iterated on, organisations can use proven technology and reduce the risk of spiralling costs and failed deliveries. 

But that’s not where the benefits stop. Using open-source technology can hugely reduce costs because you can iterate on existing, proven open-source projects, rather than starting from scratch region by region. Working this way means you can gain value and efficiency on day one, working in a way that frees you from vendor lock-in, proprietary and closed-off software has been the key blocker to interoperability.  Sharing necessary patient information across health and care settings and the compromises vendor lock-in brings and which you have no power to change.

As digital partners we must correct the sins of the past and do much more than simply provide software. Shipping technology without the skills to use, maintain and build on it will keep organisations locked in to the same old monolithic technology providers, wasting time and money in the process. 

We need to support our public sector teams on this journey, not just through training and upskilling, but working closely together to make sure we are helping to evolve digital approaches and mindsets. This way, when we finish our time on a project, teams can be confident they have the skills to make the most of the new system.

Looking to the future

If you want to learn more about how we can support you with open-source technologies, please get in touch. Or if you’d like to learn more about the work we do here at Made Tech you can subscribe to our Made Tech Insights newsletter to get new blog posts straight to your inbox.

About the Author

Hazel Jones

Head of Health

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