Open source use in govt is healthy: AGIMO

More than 750 open source implementations and 200 products in use by Financial Management and Accountability Act agencies

The Australian Government Information Office (AGIMO) has reported a healthy level of open source software (OSS) use within government agencies during the past year.

According to Brian Catto, director, architecture and emerging technologies at AGIMO, the agency’s annual ICT survey of agencies created under the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 found that almost 60 agencies were using open source software, with more than 750 open source implementations and 200 products in use.

“Open source is being used on many platforms including Windows, Solaris, Unix and Mac,” Catto said at the recent Open Source Developers Conference at the Australian National University in Canberra.

“Applications being used include Web platforms, Apache; operating systems, Linux; geospatial applications, GeoNetwork; and Web browsers, Firefox.”

Citing a National Open Source Software Observatory report on the use of open source software, Catto said Australia stood out for its OSS activity, particularly the participation of its communities on both a national and international level.

The observation follows a shift in the stance of the Australian Government to open source software from one of ‘informed neutrality’ to ‘active consideration’ earlier this year.

In January, AGIMO released its open source software principles — the first major update since 2005 — with the goal of to strengthen the consideration of open source by agencies in their software procurements.

At the time, special minister of state, Gary Gray, said the change followed similar revisions by other governments aimed at increasing the adoption of open source software as a means of reducing the cost of government ICT.

“This revised Australian Government policy on open source software will ensure that we maintain international best practice and that our purchases of software will continue to reflect best value for money for the government,” he said at the time.

This was followed in March by the release by AGIMO of an open source guide for government agencies, in part prompted by the then new open source software principles, but also to open reflect the increasing maturity of open source software.

“Open source software can offer benefits to both the Australian Government and wider community, such as improving interoperability and possible cost savings,” Australian Government chief information officer, Ann Steward, said in March.

Since then, open source software has raised its head in its underpinning CSIRO’s GPU supercomputer. Major vendors such as VMware have also embraced open source in 2011, with the launch of its Cloud Foundry open source platform-as-a-service project while HP’s webOS found a second life when it was revealed this month that it would live on as an open source platform.

Looking towards 2012, Catto said AGIMO would continue to monitor OSS usage within government and would review the effectiveness of the new policy in the first half of 2012.

Follow Tim Lohman on Twitter: @Tlohman

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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