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Govts on path to 'demystify' open source procurement

Govts on path to 'demystify' open source procurement

State and federal government representatives are preaching education to overcome uncertainties around procuring open source software to ensure agencies can reduce total cost of ownership.

While announcing the release of AGIMO's open source software guide today at the Australian Unix User Group's Open Computing in Government conference in Canberra, Special Minister of State Senator Eric Abetz said agencies should buy software that is the best value for the long term and not just consider the upfront cost.

The open source guide is not intended as a technical handbook but contains "the right questions to ask" when governments consider open source software. Furthermore, Abetz said, the guide does not attempt to mandate the use of open source but conveys "informed neutrality".

"Specifically, the guide covers topics like risk management, total cost of ownership, and contractual procedures," he said. "It's intended to demystify open source procurement."

Abetz encourages open source providers to go after the government's business and said the future will brighten as $1 billion in new business is available to open source providers.

Elizabeth Gordon-Werner from the NSW Department of Commerce open source working group said in the past there were practical disincentives to considering open source software, including dealing with open source suppliers, purchasing contracts geared to proprietary software, and a general lack of information.

"The Linux contract is one initiative that NSW government agencies can use [when buying] from a list of approved suppliers," Gordon-Werner said.

The open source panel contract, or Linux contract, has been refined to include a panel of companies that can provide open source and Linux enterprise software and services.

"We have given the agencies a Linux option but individual agencies will make the call," she said.

Gordon-Werner said it will be interesting to see if the NSW approach to open source education and procurement is adopted by other governments - both state and federal.

Red Hat Asia Pacific vice president Gus Robertson said governments are 12 to 18 months behind other industries in their adoption of open source software and CIOs are asking the questions their enterprise counterparts were asking back then.

"So education is a great first step," Robertson said. "Now, with the open source software guide there are no excuses. The federal government is now open for open source."

Robertson said some government departments are doing a good job with open source adding that many do not want to be named.

"For example, we are seeing a lot of Sun migrations to Oracle on Red Hat [so] we'd love to see a large government agency go public with open source in a mission-critical environment," he said.

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