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IT industry wants infrastructure, tax breaks and SME support from Budget [March 21, 2012]

Submitted on
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
,
CIO

Chancellor George Osborne will announce the Budget at midday tomorrow, and IT businesses are calling for useful tax breaks and good national infrastructure, with support for small enterprises.

The government needed to ensure the UK has the right technical infrastructure in place to support business growth, according to Morag Lucey, senior VP at converged IT and billing firm Convergys Smart Revenue Solutions.

"We will be specifically hoping that the government finally puts its money where its mouth is and invests more in the rollout of superfast broadband in the UK," she said.

There was "a sizeable gap between the money committed by the public sector and the private sector" for broadband, she said. "There is a questionable commercial case for communications service providers to bridge that gap alone, but absolutely no question as to the societal and economic benefits the UK will reap from universally-available superfast broadband."

Open source software providers also expressed their frustration at the perceived barriers to non-proprietary system adoption, and said the government needed to tackle the problem.

Jim Shaw, general manager for Europe at Acquia, said that in spite of the government recently launching an open source toolkit on the Cabinet Office website in order to provide a level playing field, cultural barriers were holding departments back from making the change.

"An entrenched culture of scepticism against open source adoption is still rife in the public sector and these barriers need to be broken down for the huge range of benefits the technology offers to be realised," he said. In spite of open source systems powering the Cabinet Office website and some DirectGov services, as well as Transport for London's Oystercard using an open source infrastructure, he said, the UK trailed the US and France for adoption.

"With potentially huge savings to be made through efficient public sector IT initiatives, the UK cannot afford to maintain a lukewarm approach to open source adoption."

Small businesses said the Chancellor needed to offer them tax breaks, as well as assisting with effective ways to prevent late payment by their suppliers.

David Ballard, chief executive at IT consultancy Northdoor, said the government needed to consider "lowering the threshold for entrepreneurial relief to encourage a greater distribution of stake ownerships and including smaller owners or employees". He added: "Although there is increasingly generous relief for entrepreneurs, the government has set a 5 percent minimum stake to qualify for ownership."

The Budget needed to reflect the fact that "many of the green shoots we have seen recently have come from smaller businesses, such as the tech start-ups in London's Silicon Roundabout", he added.

The Forum of Private Business said the Chancellor must tackle late payment, as well as provide better information for supporting the new National Loan Guarantee Scheme that is aimed at ensuring businesses can access credit.

"Small business owners are being expected to drive the economy forward yet find that relentless cost increases, mounting late payments and continued credit restrictions severely hinder their ability to control cash flow," said FPB senior policy adviser Alex Jackman. "Cash is the lifeblood of any business and there must be definite action in the Budget if we are to mend this cash flow crisis among small firms."

While the National Loan Guarantee Scheme was "a welcome step towards bringing down the steep cost of lending", Jackman said the UK industry needs "more competition allowing non-bank funders to compete more effectively in small business finance markets dominated by the big banks".

"Particularly, we want support for innovative crowdsourced funding models that are less dependent on automated risk criteria, the over-reliance on these being a central criticism levelled at major lenders in recent years," he said.

Annette Iafrate, managing director at online marketing firm Constant Contact, said access to credit needed to be under a "simple, clear-cut scheme" that operated quickly.

Small businesses could help greatly with national job creation, given the right resources, Ballard at Northdoor said. "I would also like to see a Budget supporting SMEs in developing and deploying their own graduate programmes, which unlike large corporations, have relatively limited resources and experiences in developing such schemes."

Gary Stewart, director at IT and business change organisation Xceed, agreed. "If the government hopes to encourage private businesses to take up the slack of public sector redundancies then they need to give them the tools to become job creators. The restrictions of red tape, regulation, poor availability of credit and tax burdens all need to be stripped back if SMBs are to help bolster economic growth."

Cost cutting: the open source solution? [March 20, 2012]

Submitted on
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
,
Electronics Sourcing

UK Budget Must Encourage Open Source Adoption to Cut Costs - UK public sector open source adoption falling well behind other major economies.

Budget wishlist includes tax changes and more SME support [March 20, 2012]

Submitted on
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
,
Microscope

With the Budget just a day away the industry has made its wishes clear asking the Chancellor to simplify taxes and provide more support for tech start-ups.

In addition there have also been calls for the greater use of open source to cut costs and to reduce VAT back down to 15%.

Some details of what can be expected tomorrow have already emerged with measures to stop those avoiding stamp duty on the agenda along with a potential cut in the 50p tax rate for the highest earners.

But all eyes will be on the taxation measures and support for smaller firms with calls for the national insurance holiday that has been offered to start-ups to be extended to established firms and a simplification of taxation generally.

"The Budget is a real opportunity to remove the growth barriers for small firms created by the complexity of the tax system. It is clearly one that should not be missed," said Phil Orford, chief executive of the Forum of Private Business.

Others wanted more done to help tech start-ups with more help for entrepreneurs willing to take risks.

"As the Chancellor prepares to announce a Budget aimed at stimulating growth, we are all expecting a great focus on macroeconomic policies. However, given that many of the green shoots we have seen recently have come from smaller businesses, such as the tech start-ups in London's Silicon Roundabout, this should be reflected in the Budget," said David Ballard, CEO of Northdoor.

There has also been a call for more adoption of open source to help government cut its own IT costs.

"The government has made huge strides in enabling a fair hearing form open source providers alongside traditional proprietary software vendors in the public sector procurement process, but much more needs to be done," said Jim Shaw, general manager for Europe at Acquia.

Bigger is not always better [Feb 22, 2012]

Submitted on
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
,
CRN

Small technology providers can and should compete more for public sector and enterprise deals, claims Jim Shaw.

Why government needs open source [Jan 24, 2012]

Submitted on
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
,
Computer Weekly

The tough economic climate has forced a radical rethink on public sector IT procurement, with decision-makers now on the look-out for more efficient, cost-effective solutions. Dries Buyteart, Creator of Drupal and Co-Founder/CTO at Acquia, weighs in.

Misplaced priorities hampering UK government uptake of open source [Jan 3, 2012]

Submitted on
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
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Opensource.com

Government agencies and departments in the UK are beginning to focus on the real value propositions offered by open source. Acquia's Manager of Community Affairs, Jeffrey "jam" McGuire, discusses all this and more in his guest blog on OpenSource.com.

Open Source: Time For Government To Practise What It Preaches [Jan 2,2012]

Submitted on
Monday, January 2, 2012
,
Business Computing World

Open source projects have long been at a disadvantage in the public sector in comparison to solutions offered by long-established proprietary software vendors. This issue was underlined in a recent interview1 with Robin Pape, chief information officer for the Home Office, who identified the cultural barriers standing in the way of IT chiefs considering utilising the advantages of open source.

But with budget cuts looming and economic constraints, isn’t it time that the Government looked towards cost effective open source solutions to make those much needed savings?

For dedicated open source developers, there is light at the end of the tunnel. With the launch of the Government’s open source toolkit to enable the assessment of projects, departments are required to ensure that open source options are considered alongside traditional solutions for every IT investment.

Added to this, the well documented catalogue of pricey vendor lock-in stories, costing billions of pounds, are a catalyst to public sector departments looking elsewhere for the best IT deals. In this context, it’s surprising then that the overall UK Government approach to open source solutions has been rather lax, especially in view of the potentially vast cost-savings it can create.

This landmark launch of the open source toolkit firmly cements the developer communities’ reputation as a reliable and – more importantly – cost efficient alternative to proprietary software, yet there are few examples of the toolkit being readily put into action.

Other European countries and the US have already made great strides in engaging with the open source community in delivering innovative new solutions to cuts costs and improve public services online.

The Netherlands and France have successfully embraced open source to deliver greater value through collaboration and efficiency to the taxpayer. Whilst in the US, open source communities, such as Drupal, run a large amount of government sites safely and securely as the approved and standardised platform.

There is evidence that the UK Government also recognises advantages of open source go beyond simple cost-savings. The Cabinet Office has documented the benefits of open source through the commissioning of joint research2 with the London School of Economics into the total cost of ownership of open source software.

A key finding of the two year study, examining members from the community of firms offering support services to public bodies, is that many early adopters of open source applications in the public sector also experience reduced vendor lock-in as a key benefit and argument for open-source adoption.

Interestingly, the report also suggests that the adoption of open source helps foster a culture of innovation and empowerment once local authorities are more accepting of mistakes that can be identified and rectified quickly by hand-on access to code and configurations.

It seems only right that in a time when budgets are being slashed, the Government recognises its own open source guidance. The philosophy of working with a willing community for the greater good underpins the values of the Government’s own Big Society agenda, so it seems about time this is put into firm practise, and the communities are allowed to deliver faster and more efficient solutions for users in a public and collaborative manner.

Getting beyond "free" - UK government uptake of open source

Misplaced priorities hampering UK government uptake of open source

According to a computing.co.uk article entitled Open Source: The government's commitment so far, most of the IT technology used in the UK government is still proprietary and comes from single vendors.

Open Source adoption by government agencies in the UK is progressing, but is still being hindered by a focus on "free as in gratis". Decisions based on cost-of-acquisition alone ignore the other real and more important values offered by open source, which are derived from "free as in freedom".

Readdressing the Public Sector’s Sourcing Strategy [Dec 1, 2011]

Submitted on
Thursday, December 1, 2011
,
SourcingFocus.com

Jim Shaw, General Manager Europe at Acquia, says it's easy to see why IT managers are seeking alternative approaches to traditional procurement programs.

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