Department of Immigration revises open source tender

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Department of Immigration revises open source tender

Proprietary software excluded from original notice.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) is reviewing a planned web development and hosting tender that appeared to favour open source over proprietary technology.

The department issued a pre-release notice on September 29 for a new business application and website for the Office of the Migration Agents' Registration Authority (MARA), which sat under its remit.

MARA needed to replace an existing Microsoft Access database with a secure, user-friendly and "innovative database solution ... built upon proven open-source frameworks and technologies".

The notice made no mention that proprietary software would be considered equally alongside open source technologies, despite the requirements of AGIMO's Open Source Policy.

An AGIMO spokesman said it had "raised the matter with the appropriate office in DIAC".

"DIAC has advised AGIMO that they are now reviewing the need to consider non-Open Source solutions in the context of this procurement," the spokesman said.

MARA deputy CEO Stephen Wood said it "had intended to include open source solutions rather than to give notice that only open source solutions were being sought".

"AGIMO have advised that the pre-release notice does not need to be modified and that it is sufficient that the RFT itself is in fact seeking proprietary, hybrid or open source solutions," Wood said.

DIAC planned to appoint a service provider to design, build, implement and host the new MARA systems.

Preliminary details of the project were revealed in DIAC's pre-release notice to AusTender on September 29. DIAC planned to release an official request for tender on October 15.

The pre-release notice was revised on October 13 to delay the issuing of a request for tender to November 4.

Wood said the request for tender had been delayed "to allow sufficient time to finalise all the documentation required".

DIAC expected to contract a tenderer in February and have the new database and website fully implemented by June.

It was not the first instance where the text of a tender appeared to favour open source over proprietary software and vice versa.

In July, iTnews revealed that trade outreach agency Austrade neglected to explicitly state that it would consider open source software in its request for tender for an online recruitment system.

An Austrade spokesman said the omission should not discourage or exclude open source software solutions, and Austrade would include the open source statement in future requests for tender.

AGIMO did not intend to report on agency-by-agency compliance with the Open Source Policy.

"Given that the changes to the Open Source Policy were made relatively recently, AGIMO continues to work with agencies to build understanding and awareness of the policy and how it applies to the Australian Government's procurement guidelines," AGIMO's spokesman said.

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