LinuxWorld: Government open to open source

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LinuxWorld: Government open to open source

The government market is more than willing to dive into open source software (OSS) but providers will have to work for the opportunity.

The government market is more than willing to dive into open source software (OSS) but providers will have to work for the opportunity.

Speaking at LinuxWorld in Sydney, Department of Finance and Administration's Patrick Callioni said the OSS community could no longer blame government for its slow adoption of offerings like Linux.

"It's partly government's laziness and a lack of sophistication, but I'm sick of hearing that government is not doing enough to promote open source," he said.

Echoing similar calls at LinuxWorld for the professionalisation of open source, Callioni said it was up to the OSS community to become more business-like and to set up new ways to help government overcome the challenges faced in adopting the technology.

"Government wants to do business, but a lot of open source companies are here today and gone tomorrow," he said. "They need to set up co-op arrangements with similar companies to back each other up. We need to see things that work and can offer a long-term proposition."

Callioni said the Government had a position of informed neutrality in which there was neither a reason not to consider open source software nor to only buy open source.

"As former Chinese premier Deng Xiao Ping once said, 'it doesn't matter what colour the cat is as long as it catches the mouse'," he said.

Callioni said a number of barriers still stood in the way of greater adoption of open source software by local, state and federal governments.

"Doing business with government isn't easy, especially with the Australian Government," he said. "There are 180 to 190 agencies and they range from one and a half people in size up to the tens of thousands."

A lack of open source champions within government was also a challenge, as was the high price of the tendering process, the number of proprietary legacy systems and ongoing IP and copyright issues, he said.

"Local patent attorneys are not very good so a lot of bureaucrats have to rely on bad legal advice," he said. "Those agencies which do deploy open source are often doing it for the first time so they are also very careful to protect their own butts and tax payer dollars."

Despite the challenges faced by the open source community, Callioni predicted that open standards would however prevail over proprietary code.

"I'm a student of systems theory and it tells me that in the long run, open source will win out and closed source will die," he said. "But do we really want to rely on evolutionary forces to take their course?"

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