'No contradiction' in OSS stance

Advice by State Services Commissioner Michael Wintringham that government agencies should consider open source software does not contradict a previous evaluation by e-government unit head Brendan Boyle that there was a lack of interest in such software, Boyle says.

Advice by State Services Commissioner Michael Wintringham that government agencies should consider open source software does not contradict a previous evaluation by e-government unit head Brendan Boyle that there was a lack of interest in such software, Boyle says.

Boyle told Computerworld earlier this year (see Govt hears no open source clamour) that there hadn’t been tremendous interest in open source.

“That didn’t mean we weren’t working on it,” he says. He also said that there was no exercise similar to seminars conducted by Australia’s National Office of the Information Economy being contemplated.

Wintringham’s statement follows one of the recommendations of a briefing on open source sent to State Services Minister Trevor Mallard on March 4.

This briefing asked the minister to “note that open source software is generally a viable alternative to commercial software and that it is increasingly used in both the private and public sectors globally”, and that “value for money and fitness for purpose principles should … underlie any software procurement decision made by government agencies”.

It further suggests that the minister “agree that government agencies, when acquiring, upgrading or relicensing software, be encouraged to assess open source alternatives (where these exist) and should choose based on cost, functionality, interoperability and security”.

Mallard is asked to “agree that the State Services Commissioner write to departmental chief executives drawing their attention [to] the recommendations above”.

Asked why he did not mention the briefing note when Computerworld asked about government attitudes to OSS around March 12, Boyle says at that stage it was a recommendation, which the minister had not yet endorsed, “and it is our practice not to talk about [such recommendations]”.

He says following the note and Wintringham’s letter, interest among agencies in open source has detectably grown.

The briefing document notes that “both vendor interests and open source groups are lobbying governments to take a position on the open source/commercial software debate, and thereby give one side the advantage in dealing with the lucrative government customer base. In response to these pressures, governments around the world are developing positions/policies with respect to the use of open source software.”

Several such government positions are recorded, including those of the governments of South Africa, Argentina, Peru, India and Italy that government organisations be encouraged or required to use open source software “wherever feasible”.

The SSC document can be read here.

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