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Wednesday, 27 January 2010 11:29

Greens press for open source software policy

By
Greens communications spokesman Scott Ludlam has called for the Commonwealth to better audit its software licensing and support costs and to encourage the adoption of open source software where a robust alternative exists.

Senator Ludlam says the same kind of rigour and enthusiasm that the Rudd Government has applied to Government 2.0 – in applying open source principles to the free access to public data – to the use of open source software platforms.

The Greens want the Australian Government Information Management Office to conduct an audit of software costs across different departments and agencies to gauge what savings might be achieved.

The Commonwealth is understood to spend more than $500 million annually on software licences and support.

"There is definitely money to be saved through open source software and there are other gains to be had in a policy sense," Senator Ludlam told iTWire.

"Open Source is not a magic bullet for everything and there needs to be a little bit of caution taken. But if the software is good enough for the US military and some of the largest bureaucracies in the world, then I think it's worth taking a look at how well we are being served by the current arrangements," Senator Ludlam said.

The Rudd Government’s move toward opening access to public sector data through its Gov 2.0 initiatives should be applauded – and applied to software platforms.

A spokesman for Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner said the government maintained a position of "informed neutrality" on software procurement, leaving it to departments and agencies to decide what provided taxpayers the best value for money.

"The (procurement guidelines) define value for money as more than that of up-front cost, and they require contemplation of whole-of-life considerations," Mr Tanner's spokesman said.

“It is widely acknowledged in government that there is great interest in OSS products but that, in some cases, vendors need to better demonstrate that there is full support for their offerings," he said.

Senator Ludlam said the Greens recognised there were complex issues related to the switching a large system from one platform to another, but also pointed to cultural issues within the public sector that got in the way of adopting open source options.

"It's a cultural thing to an extent, and also switching from one platform to another in a big, complex bureaucracy … I wouldn't pretend that's a trivial proposition," Senator Ludlam said. "I just think the longer we leave it the more pressing it becomes and the better the reasons are for doing it."

"So I would like to see some forward movement on this, or at the very least an audit of what (software in Government) costs," he said.

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