Friday, 08 October 2010 13:51

Work on AUSkey for GNU/Linux proceeding apace


The difficulties that GNU/Linux users face in dealing with Australian government departments when it comes to matters financial may become a thing of the past if the efforts of Linux Australia president John Ferlito bear fruit.

Ferlito is working as a consultant to accounting company Muli in trying to develop an open source equivalent for the API that is used to interface with financial management software under the standard business reporting programme (SBR).

The SBR is an Australian government initiative designed to reduce the reporting burden for businesses.

When one uses the SBR, users can automatically create and securely send selected forms online directly from financial, accounting or payroll software.

Ferlito told iTWire that the Australian Taxation Office was one of 12 government agencies that would be using the SBR.

"Most of my interaction has actually been with Treasury with regard to the SBR project of which ATO is probably the largest provider," he said.

"This is around work I'm doing with Muli management to help them write and open source their internal project so that their accounting platform can talk to the SBR system.

"One outcome of this with regards to AUSkey is that SBR/ATO have committed to releasing an Ubuntu AUSkey plugin."

Ferlito said the ATO had developed a reference API written in .Java and .Net; he was aiming to develop a C library that would perform the same function.

"Once it is open source, then any free software can interact with it," he pointed out. "We are still in discussions with Treasury and they have been extremely forthcoming about developing something that will increase usability."

AUSkey is an encryption certificate used for secure submission of business information to government and Ferlito said the ATO had committed to providing an open source version for GNU/Linux. The initial target would be Ubuntu.

He said a Windows version, available for use with Firefox or Internet Explorer was up and running. "We have been told that that according to an update from ATO... the changes to Auskey to assist Linux users are scheduled for November 12."

"If the ATO has been catering to Windows users, it's only a matter of their resourcing," Ferlito said. "They are more than happy to talk about other users' needs. One has to approach them in the right way."

He expects that within a couple of years at most, GNU/Linux users will be able to submit personal data such as tax returns to the tax office and other government departments.

"I think in the medium term this will be catered for by SBR. Once we have an open source library and when Treasury takes the step of expanding it to individuals rather than just business then anyone will be able to come along and create an open source or SaaS (software as a service) solution for filing tax returns," Ferlito said.


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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.





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