[LINK] Government banks on White-brand Linux apps
brd at austarmetro.com.au
Thu Aug 5 08:59:09 EST 2004
Government banks on White-brand Linux apps
In the boldest manifestation of public sector insourcing in Australia to
date, federal government agencies are developing their own open
source-based applications and will make them available for re-use across
the whole of government in the form of generic software application held in
Known as "White-branding", the push by agencies to develop their own
applications has the backing of the Australian Government Information
Management Office (AGIMO) in conjunction with agency representatives
sitting on the government's Chief Information Officer Committee and
Information Management Strategy Committee.
Acting Australian government CIO John Grant confirmed to Computerworld that
a number of government-commissioned, White-branded open source solutions
are under development, but declined to nominate which agencies were
considering or pursuing White-branding projects.
Grant stressed that White-branding initiatives had come about purely
because they represented the best interoperable solution at the best price
rather than any rejection of proprietary software models from vendors.
"Re-use of [code] is important. We don't want to keep reinventing the
wheel, we want agencies to focus on continual improvement. Interoperability
is a key issue in the government now. We wanted to create the ability to
share and re-use data, albeit within the privacy and security frameworks
that must exist."
"I think there is an increasing consideration of what is already available
when agencies are looking at replacing or putting in new systems rather
than developing from scratch. That's what you are seeing," Grant said.
While loathe to say vendors were failing mandated government
interoperability expectations, Grant conceded commercial interoperable
product [fit for purpose] probably would have been used if available.
AGIMO acting general manager for sourcing and security Tony Judge also
confirmed more White-branding initiatives are in the government pipeline.
Judge said the government had already gone public with White-branding at
the 2003 Linux.conf user group conference in Adelaide, citing a Linux-based
content management system (CMS) developed at the request of AGIMO
precursor, NOIE in conjunction with Canberra-based open source developer
"This is one of the very early OS solutions where we have gone through a
re-use model. That in itself is interesting, and I think it will be the
forerunner for a couple of others. There is potential to extend on that
model," Judge said.
AGIMO is also citing a long-held government habit of hanging onto and
exporting systems that work well, usually based in administration and
management rather than IT per se.
"There's been quite a history of government sharing these [systems]. They
have ranged from ministerial correspondence management systems through to
grants systems and a whole range of other things," Grant said, adding that
when the private sector does deliver genuine, common-usage potential
"agencies may pick that up".
Meta Group vice president for technology research, Michael Barnes, said the
White-branding initiative could succeed, provided agencies can agree on
what they want and initiatives were driven by users rather than IT.
"The fundamental reason why code re-use has failed [so far] is not
technology, it's all the different issues that have prevented collaboration
in the past: organization, compensation and politics. [But] where there's a
common agreement, and [re-usable code] can be a common, shared and
consistent service, it is viable," Barnes said.
Linux government sourcing guide nears completion
Not content with beavering away at re-usable code initiatives, AGIMO is
also preparing an Open Source Procurement Guide to assist federal agencies
evaluating their software purchasing options. Similar to AGIMO's recent
best practice guide on public sector ICT procurement, the open source guide
will set benchmarks so agencies can gauge if open source presents the best
solution for the best price.
According to Grant, the guide is expected to be completed sometime over the
next three months and is being compiled because of genuine, federal ICT
"There is an increased interest in open source. That interest is leading to
requests [from government ICT users and CIOs] for better information about
the aspects that affect open source. For example there is a view that it is
cheaper and often free to buy OS product. I think the case probably is that
often OS isn't free and doesn't mean [to be] free," Grant said.
However, AGIMO's latest guide is not, Grant insists, any sort of mandate to
use or favour open source over proprietary software.
"What we are trying to do is continue to provide information so that people
make informed decisions and not get caught up in innuendo, myth and legend.
The bottom line is that our expectation is that if open source software
makes good common sense and business sense, and it fits in with what you
need to do, then use open source. If proprietary software makes good common
sense and business sense, use proprietary software," Grant said.
Grant also conceded that feelings can run hot in the ongoing debate over
proprietary and open source models, especially once word gets out.
"Already we have had people coming in and saying "great to see you pressing
for the adoption of open source" and you have to say, well hang on, you
have to be balanced in this - you can't just be open sourced. We get both
sides of it
" Grant said.
If you have any trouble sounding condescending, find a Unix user to show
you how it's done.
-- Scott Adams
brd at austarmetro.com.au
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