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Open Source Software: Revolutionising Public Sector Digital Services

laptop screen displaying the text"open source software"

The rise of open-source software in the public sector is shaking up the way organisations approach digital service delivery. Faced with changing policies and limited resources, public sector organisations are turning to open-source solutions to help them innovate their digital services while staying within budget. By taking advantage of open source flexibility, customisability, and collaborative nature, public sector organisations can deliver high-quality services to their stakeholders that are tailored to their unique needs. Join us as we explore the exciting world of open source in the public sector and discover how the software is helping the sector tackle its biggest challenges head-on.


What is open-source software?

Open source refers to something people can modify and share because its design is publicly accessible. With this in mind, we can define open-source software as software that has source code that anyone can adapt and enhance.

Source code is the part of software most computer users don't ever see; it's the code computer programmers can manipulate to add features that meet their own needs and requirements or to fix parts that don't work correctly.

It is typically created and maintained by a community of developers and users, who contribute to its development and improvement over time.


Pink and black boxing gloves facing one another


Open-source vs. proprietary

The age-old debate, open source vs. proprietary.

Open source and proprietary are two distinct types of software, with different characteristics and licensing models. Open-source software has source code that is available to anyone. Therefore, users can modify and improve the code as they please, as long as they comply with the software terms of the license. 

On the other hand, proprietary software has source code which is the intellectual property of a company or individual. The source code is not available to the public and users are not typically prohibited from modifying or redistributing the software without the permission of the owner. 


Examples of open-source software


Examples of proprietary software


The key differences between open-source and proprietary

1. Licensing: Open source software licensing typically allows users to modify and distribute the software as long as they comply with the license terms.

Proprietary software is typically licensed under a closed or restrictive license, which limits users' ability to modify and redistribute the software.

2. Collaborative approach: Open source software projects are often developed and maintained by a community of contributors, who collaborate and share their knowledge to improve and allow for continuous innovation of the software. The majority of open-source platforms have frequent software releases containing new features that have been developed by the community. Proprietary software, on the other hand, is typically developed and maintained by a closed team of devs who work for the organisation that owns the software, as opposed to a community.

3. Flexibility: Open source software is often more flexible than its counterpart, as it can be adapted to suit the specific needs of the user. Proprietary software, on the other hand, is often limited by the features and functionality that are provided by whoever owns its intellectual property and is therefore much less flexible in general.

4. Cost: Open In general open source software is free, or available cheaper than proprietary software, due to development costs being shared by the community of contributors.

5. Better code: Open source code is often higher quality. A piece of software created by an organisation's team of in-house devs team of devs is likely to be of lower quality than code that has been developed by a large community of devs. In an open-source community, devs bring with them their own unique experiences in different technologies, industries and projects. 


Dictionary page focusing on the word revolutionary


How open source software is revolutionising public sector digital services

Public sector bodies face many challenges that are difficult to navigate. For example, public sector bodies find themselves under increasing pressure from citizens and stakeholders to provide new and improved digital services whilst battling ongoing budget cuts and limited resources. 

Let's find out how open-source software can help:

Cost savings

We touched upon earlier that open source is generally free or available for less than proprietary software as it can be downloaded and used without licensing fees. As such, public bodies can take advantage of high-quality, cost-effective open-source software and reduce their expenses and maximise their resources. This can be particularly beneficial to public sector organisations, who are often faced with limited budgets and resources but still need to provide high-quality services to their stakeholders.

Flexibility and customisation

Open source software is typically more flexible and customisable than proprietary software, allowing organisations to adapt their software to their specific needs and requirements. Utilising software that is flexible and customisable can be particularly important for public sector organisations, which often have unique requirements that cannot be met by off-the-shelf proprietary software solutions. A real-world example of software that allows public sector bodies, specifically councils to be able to benefit from this is LocalGov Drupal. If you're interested in learning more about LocalGov Drupal and the benefits it offers councils read our blog on the topic.


Open source software tends to be more secure than proprietary software, as it is subject to ongoing review and testing by the community of developers and users. This can be particularly beneficial for public sector organisations, which deal with sensitive information and must maintain strict data privacy and security protocols. 

Fostering innovation

By adopting open-source software, public sector organisations can foster innovation. Working and collaborating with other organisations and developers in the community brings public sector bodies access to a pool of knowledge and expertise. Therefore, the community can collaborate on the development of things like new tools and applications.


An example of open-source success in the public sector

LocalGov Drupal

LocalGov is a publicly owned web publishing asset that delivers a better digital experience for council residents, improves service outcomes and saves money.

The platform is a shining example of open-source community collaboration, being built and maintained by a community of developers, content designers and digital leaders from local councils across the UK. 


  • LocalGov Drupal can reduce the cost of building a new council website by up to 80%.
  • Member councils have seen £40,000 - £100,000 saved on development costs.
  • LocalGov Drupal provides features that eliminate the need for councils to spend money on user research for new site builds, resulting in savings of up to £15,000.

At Webcurl, we are proud to be an official supplier of LocalGov Drupal, providing migration, hosting and support services. We have successfully worked with councils such as Milton Keynes, Bracknell Forest, Bedford Borough and East Hampshire just to name a few. 

If you're interested in 5 ways LocalGov Drupal helps save councils money check this out.



To summarise, open source software has emerged as a viable alternative to traditional proprietary software in the public sector, offering a variety of benefits such as cost savings, flexibility, collaboration and security that help address challenges that many public sector organisations face. By leveraging the power of open-source software, public sector organisations can keep up with the ongoing demand from citizens for new and improved digital services whilst battling the challenges of ongoing budget cuts due to the cost-effective nature of open-source software. LocalGov Drupal serves as a prime success story of how open source allows public sector organisations to benefit from the flexibility and collaborative nature in a cost-effective way. We hope that this blog has been an informative read and has demonstrated how open-source software is revolutionising public sector digital services.

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