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Open Source Bill For Australian Capital Territory 186

Posted by timothy
from the seat-of-power dept.
leinad writes "An article in The Age newspaper claims the Australian Capital Territory is set to become the first jurisdiction in the country to adopt a bill which says that public bodies should, as far as practicable, consider the use of open source software when procuring computer software. (The Australian Capital Territory is the small territory/state of Australia in which Canberra, the capital of Australia, is located.)" Seems like requiring blueprints from contractors, to me.
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Open Source Bill For Australian Capital Territory

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  • by ObviousGuy (578567) <ObviousGuy@hotmail.com> on Thursday December 11, 2003 @01:06AM (#7687197) Homepage Journal
    Requiring the blueprints for a building is important insofar as it is necessary to remodel the building in the future.

    However, most operating systems do not require alteration at any level below the distributor. Users are actively discouraged from changing their systems. Changing the system means possibly breaking compatibility with other systems which leads to headaches down the road as the forks diverge.

    OTOH, software is always in a state of flux. Government software is always being updated, and as long as the underlying OS doesn't change serious portings of the software do not need to take place. In the case of end-user software, it is important that the government have the software source code in hand so as to be able to contract out to companies as necessary to update it.

    But OS software is different, in that it is less likely that a change needs to be made for the purposes of government work. COTS is the name of the game, and as long as the systems are standardized to some degree things are hunky dory. There is no need for source code in the case of an OS.
  • food on the table (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mcclure (617150) on Thursday December 11, 2003 @01:17AM (#7687261) Homepage
    I'm working for a company whom I've convinced to give the whole "open source thing" a looksee.

    This legislation means a lot to us - even though it doesn't cover the whole of the government, (as near as i can tell) it only applies to the ACT government.

    We will now get a lot more interest in our services - and once we're in one government department, federal departments can't be that far away!

    Exciting times.
  • CLUG (Score:4, Interesting)

    by femto (459605) on Thursday December 11, 2003 @01:20AM (#7687284) Homepage
    I wonder what influence CLUG [clug.org.au] had on this outcome?

    CLUG projects include samba and rsync, so they could be called a 'shining light' for the ACT.

  • we already do this (Score:5, Interesting)

    by urban_gorilla (691918) on Thursday December 11, 2003 @01:26AM (#7687310) Journal
    actually working for a government department that pretty much exculsively uses open source for our development projects i can say... it works... and pretty well too.
    we are a small department, and without a large budget have managed to complete projects in a similar, if not smaller amount of time and that would have otherwise cost millions.
    yes. millions
    go figure.
  • Hacked up already (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 11, 2003 @01:42AM (#7687377)
    The bill was pushed through last night (about 12 hours ago) the full hansard is not yet available but I will link to it when it comes up.

    Something that is just as interesting as the full hansard is the minutes and the changes that were made to the bill that has now been passed.

    The line

    'as far as practicable prefer open source software'

    was changed to

    'as far as practicable consider open source software'

    Full minutes:
    Are here [act.gov.au]

    Page 8 has the bill
    Page 10 has the ammendments
  • by Neo-Rio-101 (700494) on Thursday December 11, 2003 @01:45AM (#7687395)
    Good Point.

    I think in order to be fair, they simply couldn't completely shut the door on proprietary solutions. People here are looking at the overall system and what it can do... and if Microsoft is still required to run a particular system because only it can... then MS will stay put.

    OTOH, if the government want to create jobs and boost the local IT industry.... those MS licences will slowly die out when an OSS alternative replacement comes along.

    For most people, a Linux system does the job. OpenOffice is great (still has a few quirks here and there, but is generally "good enough" considering you don't pay a cent for it). All the other tools just add value to an already free offering.

    And let's not forget FreeBSD in the server room.

    Having said all that, forcing OSS solutions and avoiding vendor lock-in is going to be tricky when you basically need a vendor to offer you support somewhere. This basically means that if the Enterprise is running Linux on the desktop, according to the Aussie government's proposition, the whole install MUST have no proprietary pieces in there which would inhibit a change in service/support vendors. ....That's the most interesting thing that I see coming up.
    Now, who other than Microsoft can support their own OS at a source code level? Microsoft may have to take the initiative on this one....
  • good (Score:4, Interesting)

    by POds (241854) on Thursday December 11, 2003 @01:50AM (#7687421) Homepage Journal
    Cool, maybe the Australian taxation office will be able to read those applications forms i've been sending in openoffice format now? Wooh, i might get a job soon.
  • by Cosmik (730707) on Thursday December 11, 2003 @01:52AM (#7687430) Homepage
    I'm an ACT resident, and discussion about this bill came up at work today. In regards to that, I've got to wonder why the hell a bill was needed for this - why is a policy, strictly enforced, not enough?

    Are our politicians so inept that they have to hold onto the contraints of the law in order to purchase some new software? Wait...I think I just answered my own question.
  • what about pay back? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kautilya (727754) on Thursday December 11, 2003 @01:58AM (#7687457)
    I hope these governments will pay back too. If they are benefitting from open source, they should somehow invest to promote open source software.
  • by Osrin (599427) on Thursday December 11, 2003 @02:01AM (#7687465) Homepage
    ... shed some light on this.

    The ACT governments is not one of the 7 state governments, nor does it represent the Australian federal government.

    My understanding is that the ACT Government represents the ACT (strange that)... an underfunded town that is smaller and less influential than Munich.

    It's nice to see the activity, but don't get over excited, this isn't going to rock anybodies world.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 11, 2003 @02:16AM (#7687530)
    I work for an IT company, among the largest, providing services in the ACT. I'm also one of the few people in this company that will even consider open source solutions to any given problem instead of jumping immediately to a Microsoft offering. Open source solutions are almost invariably dismissed if a Microsoft soution can be cobbled together. While I applaud the intent of this bill I don't think it'll change the status quo.

    Government departments, local, State, or Federal have two common traits:
    * They are risk averse
    * They want someone to blame when things don't go right

    Adopting an open source solution when all departments around you are Microsoft shops and all the local IT companies are Microsoft shops is seen as violating both traits.

    Risk comes from the possibility that things may not interoperate (without your user base having to actually think for themselves). The first time a Minister or Dept. Head cannot open a memo or check a calendar because of file format problems someone will have to answer. Risk of this occurring increases as Redmond moves to close its file formats.

    When open source fails there is no-one to blame. Even though blaming MS for failure in their software is pointless insofar as rectifying the problem it does provide suitable cover for bureaucrats. You and I both know that solutions to most open source problems can be had with a modicum of effort. However, if you cannot buy local IT company support for OpenOffice or whatever then you have to provide this effort yourself - something Australian governments have spent the best part of a decade divesting themselves of the ability to provide.

    Good idea, and I hope it works, but I won't be holding my breath.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 11, 2003 @06:01AM (#7688257)
    Hey I live in Canberra. Apparantly Linus was visiting Tridge and they went and checked out the fairy pengiuns at the National Zoo and Aquarium. It was the zoo where Linus got bitten on the finger by those cute, yet feisty little creatures! I'm so proud of that fact!

    Canberra seems to be the epicentre of Linux in Australia. The Australian National Uni where I spent some time is very pro-Linux and Open Source.

    Did you know that there are Uni's in Australia where people graduate with an IT degree, yet never once get their hands on Linux or BSD? Sad, very sad.

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