Government launches open source project

The UK government has launches its first national open source project - the National Digital Resource bank.

It is hoped the £30m scheme will provide content online and solve compatibility issues in sharing school resources.

Open source in public sector projects has been a hot topic of debate after the government said it was "levelling the playing field" for open source suppliers.

The NDRB is based on technology used in Spanish schools. The new open source platform enables the schools to create, search for, and share digital content online.

The scheme is to be managed by the North West Learning Grid - a consortium of 2,000 schools. Technical support will be provided by open source specialist Sirius, the provider of open source software to UK schools.

At the launch of the NDRB, schools minister Jim Knight called the scheme a "landmark project". Some £30 million will be allocated to the scheme, but operational costs are estimated to be less than £400,000 per year.

On the site, users will have access to a range of services including tutorials, activities and interactive games as well as individual photographs, audio clips and worksheets.

Sirius said the open source project will serve as an example on how to reduce the risks associated with national IT projects and make them more affordable.

"The National Digital Resource Bank is the first nationwide project that relies on open source software, open standards and open content," said Mark Taylor, CEO, Sirius Corporation.

"The scale and ambition of this project has been made possible by of free and open source software. Being tied into a commercially licensed platform would have restricted the NDRB's ability to scale. It would have been just too expensive."

Gary Clawson, chief executive at the North West Learning Grid said the NDRB solved the problem where schools had been "unable to share resources with other schools because of different technical solutions implemented across different Local Authorities".

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