The presidency of the New Zealand Open Source Society is up for grabs, as the current president, Peter Harrison, is not standing for re-election.
The society will elect its new president at its AGM, which will be held, at the end of June, simultaneously in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, with the aid of an internet connection. Software developer Vik Olliver and Don Christie, founder and director of Catalyst IT, a New Zealand-based software development company, are the two candidates.
The society’s new president will have a challenging job, with, for example, the ongoing patent opposition against Microsoft’s XML word-processing patent, as well as lobbying against DRM restrictions, supporting open source in education and promoting various events, says Harrison.
If elected, Christie says he would like to extend the society’s membership base to include more people from the business community. He would also like NZOSS to become more closely associated with both local and overseas software events, he says.
Christie also thinks there is increased awareness in the industry of both open source software itself and the benefits it can provide.
“The story in the newspaper the other day about schools being forced to fork out $2.7 million to Microsoft, whether or not they use its software — it’s reaching a point of no return, really,” he says.
Christie’s company specialises in providing open source software solutions to the education sector, enterprises and government agencies, in both New Zealand and internationally, he says.
Rival candidate Olliver says if he is elected he’d like to raise the profile of NZOSS, especially with the government and in the media.
“There are a lot of things said about open source that don’t seem to be particularly well-informed,” he says.
For example, there are misunderstandings about open source licences, he says. Many people seem to think that if you use open source you have to give your code to everybody, he says.
Another common misunderstanding is that there is no support available for open-source products, he says.
Olliver would also like to get the smaller local businesses more involved with open source, and that way “keep the knowledge within our knowledge economy rather than have it drifting off to large overseas companies”. In the long run, that would make New Zealand a more competitive market, he says.
“I’d like to get through to [smaller businesses] that open source is not [just] about not having licence fees; it’s about it being a better way of doing things,” he says.
Olliver works for mobile phone software company uiActive. His personal research is focused on the development of an open source, self-replicating fabrication system called RepRap (replicating rapid prototyper).