Govt hears no open source clamour

The State Service Commission's e-government unit says it's not being swamped by demand for open source information from government agencies, in contrast to its Australian counterpart.

The State Service Commission’s e-government unit says it’s not being swamped by demand for open source information from government agencies, in contrast to its Australian counterpart.

Deidre Butler, convenor of Govis, the government information managers forum, says she has detected no recent demand for improved knowledge of open source. It’s not recently been a topic on the mailing lists and wasn’t mentioned at a recent Govis forum coordination meeting, she says.

And the e-government unit has no plans to emulate an open source software education exercise put on by Australia’s National Office of the Information Economy (NOIE) last month, despite the success of the event.

The seminars included speakers from the vendor community such as pro-OSS IBM and OSS-sceptic Microsoft, along with the Australian Unix Users Group and IT managers from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Bureau of Meteorology — both users of open source. CIOs from Australian government departments and agencies were in the audience, and NOIE says there will most likely be other such events.

“This will probably be the first of a series,” said NOIE chief John Rimmer. “And it would be very useful if we could get other agencies to speak at future seminars about their experiences with open source software as it develops.”

A spokesman for ICT minister Senator Richard Alston says the event attracted about 150 people.

“We don’t have any definite plans like NOIE’s,” says e-government unit head Brendan Boyle, “but we constantly facilitate the sharing of information [among government agencies] and open source is one topic that is discussed.”

The G2003 arrangement did not indicate a government predisposition towards Microsoft, he says.

“There is no reason why a similar licensing regime can’t be put in place for anything, if there is sufficient interest. As I’ve said before, it’s a matter for each agency to make its own decision and they will decide in terms of the value to them.

“There are plenty of ways information can be shared,” says Boyle, “and we’ve not had people knocking on the door asking us to tell them about open source,” as NOIE apparently did.

In the Australian presentation Rimmer described NOIE’s general approach to the issue of OSS as one of “sceptical neutrality — between proprietary software and open source software, as well as between vendors”.

He said NOIE decided to hold the seminar because of the general interest in OSS, “and specifically because agency CIOs expressed interest at a previous seminar in receiving more information about OSS and related issues”.

NOIE presentations can be seen here.

Email Stephen Bell

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