Non committal gov't disappoints open sourcers

The organiser of an open letter asking the government to consider favouring open source software is disappointed by a response by Trevor Mallard, especially, he says, given the government's latest rhetoric on innovation.

The organiser of an open letter asking the government to consider favouring open source software is disappointed by a response by Trevor Mallard, especially, he says, given the government’s latest rhetoric on innovation.

Prime Minister Helen Clark focused heavily on what government was doing to develop the various technology industries in her new-term speech earlier this month.

The open letter, which has 365 signatories, was sent to the ministers of IT, state services, and research, science and technology last November. Organiser and Linux systems integrator David Lane this month received what he calls a "non-committal" reply from state services minister Trevor Mallard.

In his response Mallard says in terms of developing and/or procuring IT systems or software, government agencies are free to adopt open source software. There is no restriction on its use and there is no policy in favour of closed source software. Mallard says the overriding principle of "value for money" must be adhered to by government agencies when procuring IT systems. “This principle must be applied equally when considering proprietary and open source software options. In other words, government agencies must meet their business requirements in the most cost-effective way.”

Christchurch-based Lane says, “I'm disappointed that the government's response was so non-committal and that they didn't even take us up on our offer to demonstrate how OSS [open source software] could fulfil nearly all of their business requirements at a fraction of a cost, and with far greater innovation than any of the ‘safe’ proprietary systems they currently operate.”

The open letter points out that interoperability is important to achieving the government’s e-government goals. Mallard says to achieve interoperability the e-government unit of the State Services Commission has been developing the New Zealand E-government Interoperability Framework (NZeGIF).

“This has involved input from a range of public and private sector organisations and has not revealed the need for any shift in relevant government policy with regard to open source software.” The framework will be opened to public consultation later this month or in March.

Mallard says he has asked his officials in the e-government unit to keep him advised of developments in the open source software area.

Lane says he has sent the response to the New Zealand Open Source mailing list. Members are generally unimpressed, he says.

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