Don’t expect open source software to be an issue in the forthcoming election. Computerworld asked pertinent politicians from the two major parties about open source in government and neither committed himself.
IT Minister Paul Swain’s spokesman passed the buck to Trevor Mallard (as state services minister, responsible for e-government).
“The government has no position for or against open source at this stage”, Mallard says, though he claims other governments’ actions regarding open source are being followed with interest.
“As always, what counts most is whether software does the right job and delivers good value for money. The e-government unit is keeping a close eye on the whole issue of open source, and will advise periodically on any possible issues, including developing policy if required in the future.”
National party IT spokesman Maurice Williamson says it is not an MP’s or a minister’s role to push the advantages of open source software or any specific kind of IT.
“It’s an issue I don’t think politicians need to hold a point of view on, because government agencies are independent and the chief executives responsible for their own decisions. It would be the worst thing to compromise that independence.”
Personally, Williamson sees that open source software might confer some benefits, both through its potentially lower cost and through its community-oriented process of development and enhancement. The latter suggests closer alignment to user needs and the existence of options such as self-customisation.
Open-source software with a low or zero up-front price might need costly maintenance, and the old principle of looking at the total long-term cost of ownership should be borne in mind.