Defence open source sold by commerce, not ideals

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Defence open source sold by commerce, not ideals
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Tips for selling open source to Defence:

1. Target the right stakeholders -- ministers, military officers and civilian staff -- within specific organisations instead of hoping to gain favour with the Defence CIO.

"Keep in mind that the Defence Department is relatively decentralised, with lots of people making decisions," Worthington said. "There's no point in lobbying a senator to pass legislation that says open source must be used in defence."

2. It is easier to sell systems that users do not directly interact with, as retraining staff is difficult and costly. Desktop software is likely to disrupt user expectations far more dramatically than Apache web servers, or embedded software for purpose-built mobile devices.

"Defence equipment is bought on such a large scale that it is difficult to make a financial case for change. The further you get from the desktop, the easier it is," Worthington said.

3. Address concerns like compatibility and support, and not just value-for-money. Leverage existing infrastructure because "for an SME, your chance of getting a new platform into Defence is basically zero," Freedman said.

"You can't sell it [an open source system] based on cost savings alone," he said. "Their major considerations are support and whether they are compatible with existing platforms."

4. Consider engaging consultants who have worked in the Department of Defence in the past, for their knowledge of people and procedures within the department. Consider holding events such as public seminars to attract attention to technological capabilities.

Worthington recommended discussions with lobbyists, technical organisations and "quasi-academic think-tanks" such as the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, ANU's Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, and Australian Defence Association.

On Monday 19 April, he will address around 50 businesses in Adelaide at an OpenSA event titled 'Engaging the defence sector with open source'.

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