The Inquirer-Home

Australian Senators endorse Open Source

One's unsure why, the other 'gets it'
Sat Nov 09 2002, 16:33
IN THE CONTEXT OF E-GOVERNMENT conferences and demonstrations of new technology by government agencies, two prominent Australian Senators have endorsed Open Source solutions, report news.com.au and theage.com.au.

Senator Richard Alston gave Federal government executives encouragement to investigate and adopt Open Source technologies where appropriate.

After allowing that he was impressed by the cost savings made possible by Open Source, he admitted: "There is an ever-increasing enthusiasm for open source around the world."

"We would encourage our departments and agencies to adopt best practice and since three of them have gone down that path with positive results, we would encourage them all to look at open source," said the Minister.

Yet he hedged: "We think it's got potential, but it's not a matter where we would advocate a particular approach, proprietary or otherwise."

Senator Alston is clearly stretching to look like a leader here, since his government's agencies and departments are ahead of him with Open Source. The Australian Department of Veterans' Affairs, Centrelink (whatever that is), and the Bureau of Meteorology all recently decided to move part of their IT infrastructure to Linux. The latter Bureau realized 30% cost reductions in IT development hardware and software.

Cost savings like that can get the attention of even Senator Luddite, as he's known to many Australians. Here's a critique of Senator Alston's simply appalling record as the Australian Federal government's Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunications or, as this author puts it, the "Minister for Obstructionism and Protectionism".

We think it's just about cost reductions for Senator Alston -- that he doesn't yet have even the faintest clue about the other, more important advantages of Open Source. The news.com.au story is here.

In contrast, an Australian Labor Party leader clearly does 'get' Open Source. At the same "e-Government Australia Summit" Senator Kate Lundy, Shadow Minister of Information Technology, said: "Labor has always challenged the wisdom of long-term contracts capturing government departments and agencies in shrink-wrapped proprietary software solutions at a time when technology is changing so rapidly."

She warned against considering open source software as merely a means to reduce costs, stating: "Instead, I see open source software as offering huge potential in rethinking the management of public information and the delivery of e-Government services by using smart and secure technology that will serve now and into the future."

She also encouraged Australia's government to consider Open Source as an alternative in procurements -- but didn't hedge like Senator Luddite.

She continued: "This is the chance to make a significant investment in updating legacy technology systems that will prevent the effective delivery of e-government services, including access to data that is held in systems that are up to 30 years old."

"As far as e-Government is concerned, what is required is a vision for Australia that understands that software and the Internet are central to delivering citizen focused e-government services," Senator Lundy said.

The article at theage.com.au is here. µ

 

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