Industry consultant and government advisor Terry Cutler has agreed to chair a board of six state and federal government agencies under the Open Technology Foundation (OTF).
The initiative has been spearheaded by former South Australian ICT director Stephen Schmid for the past three years as a means to promote collaboration and interoperable technology in the public sector.
Schmid, now the foundation's general manager, said it had secured council members from two federal agencies, three state government agencies, and the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs.
The council would become a formal board following the foundation's launch by Cutler and Senator Kate Lundy on September 14 at Parliament House. Schmid had initially planned for a June launch.
“For different government jurisdictions to get the formal seal of approval to be a part of this takes a significant amount of time,” he said.
“We didn’t want to force jurisdictions to be in or out [of the board].”
Interim board members, including representatives of the federal Bureau of Meteorology and Department of Defence, were responsible for determining the foundation’s strategic direction, determining research areas and prioritising technology trials.
Defence chief technology officer Matt Yannopoulos said the OTF was "a positive initiative that will assist in exploitation of open source software, technology and standards in the Defence and Whole of Government environment”.
Schmid said the foundation would initially focus on quantifying the costs and benefits of adopting open technology which included, but was not limited to, open source software.
It had also commenced discussions with two major enterprise resource planning software vendors and the South Australian Local Government Association for a study of office productivity software options.
The end-goal of that project – sponsored by “tier one IT vendors” – was to increase the number of desktop software options available to local government agencies, Schmid said.
He said future projects would likely be supported by vendor funding. The OTF had the support of IBM, HP, RedHat and Google.
Microsoft had also expressed its support for interoperable technology, he added, but he said the OTF had not entered into any formal discussions with the software giant.
Schmid invited government agencies, academics and members of the IT industry could join those respective membership tiers and participate in OTF activities.
The foundation planned to establish an online portal with secure areas for each tier, in which members could share and access knowledge, experiences, and code.
It was aligned with similar initiatives by the European Commission and Vietnamese Government, with the aim of developing an “international sharing alliance”, Schmid said.
“Australian agencies would definitely benefit from an international sharing alliance ... [in which] information and platforms are shared seamlessly across jurisdictions,” he said.
The foundation comprised Schmid, a project officer, and staff from partner Carnegie Mellon University on an as-needs basis.
Schmid said the university was "taking a lead role in establishing the OTF and [assisting him] in achieving [its] vision for the governments on the council".
Operational costs were minimal, Schmid said. He declined to identify the source of operational funding, noting only that it was not from the private sector or Federal Government.
Last year, the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) revealed that it had declined to be involved in the OTF.
Schmid said AGIMO would “neither support or not support” the OTF, as the foundation was “that step past policy”.
“We are going to complement policy that the Federal Government and AGIMO has put in place,” he said.
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