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Open Source Bill For Australian Capital Territory 186

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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  • wel... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 11, 2003 @01:03AM (#7687183)
    the democrates are a bit of a joke in australia atm im supprised it passed
  • by LardBrattish ( 703549 ) on Thursday December 11, 2003 @01:10AM (#7687222) Homepage
    isn't the bit about "considering open source wherever practical" which is easy to weasel around. I like this bit:-

    The bill, which goes before the ACT Legislative Assembly tonight, also specifies that public bodies should not use software that does not comply with open standards or standards recognised by the ISO or software for which support or maintenance is provided only by an entity that has the right to exercise exclusive control over its sale or distribution.

    That'll be the bit that gives most trouble to the beast of Redmond...
  • Define support (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ObviousGuy ( 578567 ) <> on Thursday December 11, 2003 @01:11AM (#7687228) Homepage Journal
    Define maintenance.

    I'm sure you'll find that Redmond will have no trouble satisfying this clause.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 11, 2003 @01:12AM (#7687233)
    Requiring open source is like requiring openly designed cars, electronic devices, etc... for the government business. It doesn't make sense and it is not the right way to promote open source. It is totally discriminatory and unfair. I would reject such an idea and will consider it an abuse of the government power against the free will of people.

    Promoting open standards is another matter though, cause that really gives people the power to use whatever they want, be it open source or Microsoft software, it doesn't matter.
  • by mabinogi ( 74033 ) on Thursday December 11, 2003 @01:15AM (#7687250) Homepage
    It's not about requiring, it's about considering....

    Also the most significant part of the bill is not really about open's about requiring the use of open standards, and avoiding single vendor lock in....
  • Re:Define support (Score:2, Insightful)

    by LardBrattish ( 703549 ) on Thursday December 11, 2003 @01:18AM (#7687277) Homepage
    I see your point but how many companies can provide a fix for an exploit in SQL Server? How about MySQL or Postgresql...

    The open source movement needs to market itself better to the enterprise. That's why I support that proposal by the Debian guy to get certification & target vertical markets with tailored distros. If someone did that for the British NHS & sold them 1.6m seats @ (say) UKP20 + annual support @ UKP20/seat/year there'd be a reasonable amount of cash (64 Million Pounds) going into the system to enhance the distro
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 11, 2003 @01:21AM (#7687293)
    I don't think it is the business of government to tell you that you should consider the use of open source software. I can make the best decision, why the hell should the government tell me which software should I consider? When the government says you should consider, it quickly becomes "requiring" btw. I don't think the government should in anyway promote this or that software over the other. Not that I don't like open source, but once you limit your options without even considering your other options, you will likely to lose.
  • by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Thursday December 11, 2003 @01:22AM (#7687298) Homepage Journal
    So go work for Red Hat. Open source is producing jobs at Red Hat. Technological improvements always destroy some jobs, but others appear to take their place.
  • by LardBrattish ( 703549 ) on Thursday December 11, 2003 @01:22AM (#7687299) Homepage
    As a programmer this is a huge concern for me obviously. But in this case it's Australian government so they are interested in keeping as much of the money in Australia as possible.

    There was a great article in Australian Developer a few months ago explaining the economics of open source for (non US) governments and the way that supporting FOSS keeps more money in your country and improves your balance of trade.

    This is not the case in America for obvious reasons :)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 11, 2003 @01:36AM (#7687351)
    What's the government, a third party person? The government is me. Government is using my money, my resources. I am one of the guys who maintain the government, not the government itself. It has to ask me first to take that sort of decision. If everybody says, let's use open source, I have no problem. Otherwise, who the hell knows why those government officals did this thing. Maybe they know someone who works in one of the companies which provide open source software. You never know? Would it be better if the government said, you should consider using Microsoft software? This is not about open source, this is about your own freedom to choose. Nothing should take it away from you, not even open source zealots. You don't use open source because you have to, but becase you chose to. And nobody can make decision for you, neither government nor open source zealots.
  • by ignavus ( 213578 ) on Thursday December 11, 2003 @01:44AM (#7687391)
    I don't think it is the business of government to tell you that you should consider the use of open source software.

    It *is* the business of governments to regulate how government sector organisations purchase software. They aren't trying to tell *you* what to buy ... unless you are a government sector employee. In which case they are your employer, and *can* tell you what to buy.

    I see this as affirmative action against all those government agencies that automatically think that expensive, multi-national-owned software is intrinsically better than open source, or locally produced stuff from small vendors.

    There are plenty of government managers who get their kudos from spending lots of tax-payers' dollars on big-budget projects, when something much more modest would do the job ... at a far lower cost. But then the manager wouldn't be able to say, "I have a bigger budget than you!" This legislation helps, a little, to counteract some of this waste.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 11, 2003 @01:50AM (#7687422)
    At least you have a job. There are tons of North Americans who don't. 40 000 a year is far, far better than nothing. The market is adjusting. Deal with it. That's why people save money when there ARE making more money.
  • by bit01 ( 644603 ) on Thursday December 11, 2003 @01:54AM (#7687439)

    You're a troll and probably an M$ astroturfer but I'll bite so those new here won't be fooled:

    The source of the OS matters just as much as for application, but for reasons you haven't mentioned. These include:

    Documentation - it is impossible for API documentation to be complete. Source is frequently needed to make clear what will happen under rare circumstances eg. virtual memory traps during a strcpy() in a device driver.

    Back doors - without source it is impossible for the government to make sure that public data is not being used for private purposes. "Trust me" is not good enough for any non-trivial project. eg. voting

    Unusual circumstances - Governments are large organisations with many specialised operations. To say one size fits all is simply wrong. Source is not a panacea but can help solve problems that closed source vendors won't even look at. eg. support for military spec hardware.

    Forking - Closed source software forks every bit as much as open source source software and in addition will always eventually no longer be supported. With open source software an customer can make their own choices about when to drop support and not be beholden to a vendor trying to maximise profit.


    I sometimes think that closed source vendors are engaged in 1984 style double-think when it comes to closed source API's. By definition an open source API, assuming all else is equal, will allow a customer at least all the options of a closed source API.


    Astroturfers are scum

  • by Frater 219 ( 1455 ) on Thursday December 11, 2003 @01:55AM (#7687442) Journal
    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.

    That's silly. It's like saying that having the freedom to remodel your building means that you're going to undermine its foundations and break its compliance with the building code. Of course you don't do that.

    When you have a large site with higher potential migration costs, you would be fiscally irresponsible to hand your system over to a single-source vendor. You wouldn't sign a building contract which specified that only the original builder could fix the roof if it leaked, would you? He could charge any price he wanted -- your only options would be to pay it, or to live in a leaky building, or to demolish or abandon the building and build another. That is what lock-in and migration costs mean in proprietary software.

    It's true that you, or your staff, may never need to make changes to your software yourself. However, you still benefit from the fact that others can, and that you are not locked-in to someone else's way of doing business.

  • by Cosmik ( 730707 ) on Thursday December 11, 2003 @02:11AM (#7687505) Homepage
    One can only wish that they became more similar, and our Prime Minister moved to Texas as well.
  • by macrealist ( 673411 ) on Thursday December 11, 2003 @03:17AM (#7687724) Journal
    I'm not Australian, so I probably have no right to comment, but that change seems good. There is nothing more infuriating than being forced to use a tool "just because". The wording "prefer" could be weighted in different ways. If the deciding factor in choosing is the openness of the source not the usefullness of the application, everyone losses. User are forced to use an inferior product, and they know it, and an open source project that may have blossomed, starts to get a bad reputation.

    For example, I am not an artist, and when I want to touch up a image on my computer, I use the GIMP. My brother is an artist and when he manipulates an image, he uses Photoshop. I chose the GIMP because of its price (directly related to its openness), but if my brother were forced to use the GIMP, he would hate it. It is a good tool, but not the best. And those that care about the difference don't want the choice determined by openness.

    On the other hand, forcing all to be considered, including open source, is a win for everyone. Users get the best tool, good open source projects get to play on even ground, and losing open source projects know exactly what to improve on.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 11, 2003 @03:26AM (#7687748)
    Requiring open source is like requiring openly designed cars, electronic devices, etc... for the government business. It doesn't make sense

    Maybe it doesn't make sense to you. But it doesn't sound like you know what it means to manage a fleet of corporate vehicles, or a computing infrastrucure for that matter.

    Even in my personal life, I don't want a car with the hood welded shut, I want one that can be repaired by the local garage, or by me. Same with electronics. I like it a lot when I can talk intelligently with the repair shop, because we're both reasonably knowledgeable about the equipment under repair.

    The thing about physical systems is that we take for granted the fact that they are open. Take the valve covers off your motorcycle some time if you don't believe me. You don't see a bunch of meaningless zeroes and ones, do you?

    Since zeroes and ones don't have intrinsic meaning the way valves and cams do in a physical system, we need the source code, that is, the blueprints.

    Okay? Everybody understand that now? Cool.
  • by teh*fink ( 618609 ) on Thursday December 11, 2003 @06:21AM (#7688330) Journal
    Requiring the blueprints for a building is important insofar as it is necessary to remodel the building in the future.

    wtf? requiring plans for a building is considered necessary (usually on a local level) because the designs need to be reviewed for competency, accordance to various codes, and to make sure the builder isn't cheating to cut costs, etc.; all of which are in the public good. if you really wanted to draw a good comparison, you could say any software used in at least the goverment (or the public sector as a whole) should be required to adhere to a strict set of safety, security, and other guidelines before being allowed other words a set of rules much like the building code.
  • by SpaceJunkie ( 579366 ) on Thursday December 11, 2003 @12:13PM (#7690336) Homepage Journal
    Changing the system means possibly breaking compatibility with other systems
    Since when was ANY closed source operating system(or software) designed to be compatible with other vendors products? If the standards for Windows applications and documents were at all transparent - then that would undermine most of MS's business model.

    Open source encourages standards- because people like interoperability. People like being able to upgrade freely - not have to upgrade one expensive license only to find out they have to upgrade all their other sofwtare to work with it(2k to Xp for instance).

    Software is always in a state of flux. That is what things like Portage/Gentoo [], Debian/Apt [] and Redhat RPM [] are all about.

    The definition of what is OS and what is apps is becoming increasingly blurred. Is KDE an App? Part of the OS? Somewhere in between? The same could be said for many MS services. Although the GUI has now been integrated furthar down(instead of Win on top of dos), would you say Explorer (as in your desktop) is part of the OS? Or just a nifty utility shipped with it?

    I think having all the source code is a good idea, both for upgradeability, transparency, security/trust and maintainability.

The optimum committee has no members. -- Norman Augustine