Open source tender stirs political hornet’s nest

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A NSW Government tender for open source software has caused a political stoush, with Minister for Commerce, John Della Bosca, slammed by the Opposition.

A NSW Government tender for open source software has caused a political stoush, with Minister for Commerce, John Della Bosca, slammed by the Opposition.

NSW Department of Commerce released its whole-of-government Linux tender on 29 September, calling for a panel of suppliers to provide enterprise-level software and services for government agencies.

NSW Shadow Minister for Commerce, Chris Hartcher has panned Della Bosca for embarking on an open source software project before releasing details of an investigation into Open Source software conducted by the Office of Information and Communication Technology.

The contract, reportedly worth $40 million, calls for suppliers to provide Linux distributions, infrastructure software, system support services, system integration services and training services.

Hartcher, in a press statement, accused the NSW Department of Commerce of making a “rash” decision.

“Earlier this year, the Office of Information and Communication Technology launched an investigation into Open Source software and its 'cost benefits' to Government Departments. This investigation was intended to run through the 2004 - 2005 financial year at a cost of $200,000,” said Hartcher in a statement.

“Instead, only three months later, the Department of Commerce has launched a tender for Open Source (Linux) Enterprise Software & Services.”

“If the Department has completed in three months what they themselves suggested should have been a year long investigation then the Minister must release the results of that investigation,” said Hartcher.

“The long term commercial risks of open source need to be investigated properly before the Department of Commerce makes any rash decisions,” he said.

“While open source software may seem like a cheaper option in the short term, locking a government agency into a situation where it has only one possible support provider now and into the future comes with obvious risks,” he said.

“The Minister for Commerce should be investigating every software option; if those investigations have not been concluded then no decisions should be made in relation to software tendering. If the investigations have been finalised then the Minister must immediately release their findings.

“The NSW Opposition recognises the need to investigate all options when it comes to reducing unnecessary costs to Government Departments and utilising all available technology,” he said.

Hartcher defined open source software as different from commercial or proprietary software “in that the purchaser can see the underlying source code of the software”.

“The public of NSW has no confidence in the Minister for Commerce, who has trouble keeping his own website up to date, when it comes to IT.

Della Bosca's office was unavailable for comment at time of writing.

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