As governments around the world increasingly turn on to open source software, the West Australian government has no choice but to play a leadership role if it doesn't want to be left behind.
Manager of Information Infrastructure with the Western Australian Department of Industry & Resources Kevin Russell, who will speak at LinuxWorld conference in Sydney on March 30, says governments are finding numbers of good reasons for moving towards open source. That makes it incumbent on agencies like his to dispel some of the myths surrounding open source software.
"Governments all around the world are looking more and more at open source software. This is especially true in our region, which includes the eastern states of course, and countries like Indonesia, China, India and Malaysia where there is a big movement towards open source software.
"And I wouldn't like to see us a few years down the track being left behind, especially in the areas where we are not only as a State but as a country leading in the provision of services and conduct of professional work in some spheres of open source."
Russell says both public and private sector organizations sometimes struggle to find training and other services.
"We are on a regular basis making connections between service providers and other organizations that are looking for all these services - people are not aware of who provides those in this area.
"As IT professionals we have a real obligation to our taxpayers to ensure that we always provide systems that have value for money systems that meet business needs. That means that we have to be considering open source software as one of the options," he says.
Meanwhile the NSW Department of Commerce's Elizabeth Gordon-Werner, who will also address the conference, agrees one current barrier to wider use of open source software is lack of information. The NSW Open Source Project is helping address this issue by providing mechanisms to make it easier for agencies using open source to communicate and share information.
Gordon-Werner says the NSW Open Source Project encourages sharing of information on Open Source software and facilitating its use within the New South Wales Government. The government's Panel Contract 2316, Open Source (Linux) Enterprise Software and Services, is the first open source panel contract in Australia and includes both international companies and SMEs. Six companies are currently on contract and negotiations continue with four others.
"Establishing an accredited panel of companies with demonstrated expertise in supporting Linux software to government means agencies with substantial projects will not have to go through the time consuming and expensive process of running an open tender every time they require Linux software and services,"
Many NSW agencies actively use open source software including large agencies such as RTA and the Department of Education. Some agencies, such as the Board of Studies and the Judicial Commission of NSW use Open Source software for mission critical systems.
"Local and international experience is showing that in many instances open source is a viable and credible option," Gordon-Werner says. "The government wants to ensure that the potential benefits presented by Open Source software are fully realized by government agencies and is encouraging agencies to include open source options in their software evaluations.
"Some NSW agencies using open source have found that it can generate significant savings in the longer term. The Judicial Commission of NSW, for example, has developed world-class applications using open source software, which enable them to carry out business functions at a fraction of the cost they might otherwise incur."
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