[LINK] Open source joins electioneering
brd at austarmetro.com.au
Tue Aug 31 16:20:55 EST 2004
Open source joins electioneering
Within 24 hours of a federal election being called, Communications and IT
minister Helen Coonan has swapped her contentious campaign to offshore
government IT services for a warm and fuzzy embrace of home-grown open
source software to woo the penguin vote.
Coonan today leapt on an otherwise reserved Australian Government
Management Office (AGIMO) guide to using open source software within
government, elevating it to a an electoral pledge of sorts through the
release of a government position paper.
"The government will continue to encourage the use of open source software
solutions by developing a range of tools to help government agencies make
informed decisions to suit their IT needs and get value for money.
This position paper shouldnt be seen as the government advocating open
source software in all cases, rather we are acting to identify and remove
the impediments to government procurement of open source solutions, Coonan
Coonan also extolled the virtues of AGIMO's so called "white branding"
approach, which will see open source applications code held in code banks
for generic reuse across government. Coonan described the joint development
of a white-branded and open source content management system by AGIMO and
boutique developer Squiz.net as "robust, portable and suits government
"This solution will soon be offered to all government agencies at no direct
cost," Coonan said, most likely giving proprietary software vendors reliant
on licensing revenue chest pains in the process.
Election or otherwise, Microsoft is treating emergence of the government's
stance on open source procurement with some seriousness.
Managing director of Microsoft Australia, Steve Vamos, said commercial
decisions needed to made on commercial grounds and warned that injecting
philosophy into business-based IT procurement debates was an inherently
"The technology industry is littered with failed philosophies. The real
test is [whether], over time, hardware or software [platforms are proven to
work] and provide best value for money," Vamos said.
Having spent some years berating the government over proprietary software
lock-ins and a complete lack of interest in open source, Labor's IT shadow
Kate Lundy moved swiftly to accuse Coonan of brazenly recycling Labor's
open source stance.
"How many years has it taken them? I hope this is not just [expedient] lip
service because open source does have a strong future in Australia," Lundy
However, Lundy warned Coonan's belated embrace of open source may prove too
little too late for local industry, with the government having neglected
intellectual property concerns in the recently inked Free Trade Agreement
(FTA)with the US.
"We've seen through the FTA the increased vulnerability of open source. The
Coalition did not seem sympathetic to those [intellectual property
concerns] facing the open source community when [it was] facing the FTA
debate. I look to the Coalition which may not then be the government
ensuring the FTA does not lead to open source vendors becoming vulnerable
to [predatory litigation under the FTA]," Lundy said.
Australian government CIO and AGIMO head John Grant was unavailable for
comment on Monday night; however, AGIMO has consistently argued individual
government agencies remain free to choose IT suppliers based on individual
agency needs, fitness for purpose and value for money - regardless of
whether such arrangements are insourced, outsourced or open source.
Better a broken promise than none at all.
-- Mark Twain
brd at austarmetro.com.au
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