The State Services Commission’s championing of open source software in government helped its ICT branch pick up an award in the government category of the inaugural New Zealand Open Source Awards, held in Wellington this month.
The SSC has developed and published guidelines to government agencies that are considering open source, says the deputy commissioner and head of the ICT branch, Laurence Millar. The guidelines were published on the e-government website in 2003 and then updated, he says.
The message from SSC is that open source is a viable option for government agencies, and it should be considered alongside proprietary systems, says Millar.
One of the characteristics of the open source community is that it is a networked and connected ecosystem, he says, and this is also one of the main benefits of deploying open source technology.
“One of the advantages is the community within which you find yourself interoperating, and the ability to build and learn from a diverse group of developers,” says Millar.
Open source is also a signifier for the way technology is likely to evolve, which will be centred around more loosely connected rather than monolithic infrastructure, says Millar, and the community is essential for those connections.
Often, people go for open source software because of the initial attraction of cost-savings, but in many cases they will find that it delivers broader benefits than that, such as the sustainability of the community and the level of support available from that community, Millar says.
“Cost is one of the parameters that you will put into any evaluation along with functionality, future-proofing and fit to requirements, but it is a broader picture than just cost,” he says.
Some of the government’s successful open source projects are, for example, the electoral management system, the Koha library management software and the Moodle education management system run out of the Open Polytechnic, says Millar.
About 200 people attended the inaugural New Zealand Open Source Awards earlier this month.
The winners of the Open Source Awards:
Open Source Ambassador: Peter Harrison
Open Source Contributor: Chris Cormack
Open Source Software Project: New Zealand Open GPS
Open Source Use in Government: State Services Commission (ICT Branch)
Open Source Use in Business: Zoomin/ProjectX
Open Source Use in Education: New Zealand Summer of Code
Open Source Use for Community Organisations: Vet Learn
Open Source for Creativity: Select Parks
New Zealand Open Source Society Special Award: NZOSVLE — Open Polytechnic
New Zealand Open Source Society Special Award: Michael Koziarski