The release (on January 27) by the Federal Special Minister of State, the Honourable Gary Gray, MP of a revised Federal Government policy on open source software has been welcomed by Microsoft Australia.
Approved by the Minister and the Secretaries' ICT Governance Board in December the policy's requirement to consider open source software in all software procurements seems both sensible and pragmatic.
There is no obvious reason why any purchaser would need or want to limit by policy the scope of available potential products and vendors in software procurement. All suitable options should always be considered provided the ultimate procurement decision is based upon a 'value for money, fit for purpose' calculation.
A public policy that requires that all options be considered makes perfect sense. Procurement based on whole of life costs, capability, security, scalability, transferability, interoperability, support and management requirements will deliver taxpayers the best value for their money.
Over the past 5 years we've all seen the extent to which interconnected heterogeneous computing environments have grown. Whether a software solution is open source or proprietary developed or licensed the key to making heterogenous environments work is interoperability.
Enabling interoperability ensures that governments, developers and those who access government systems can decide what technologies work best for them. Interoperability makes it is possible for software developers to choose a development platform and a licensing method that suits them, their circumstances and their customers. The end result is a dynamic IT industry that innovates and creates new technologies that can improve citizen services and increase government efficiency and an industry focused on the outcomes delivered by the software.
For very obvious reasons thousands of open source software products and projects are developed to run on the Windows platform. Equally proprietary software products often need to work in environments that are utilising open source code, particularly in web environments. The Government's proposal to have AGIMO participate in the development communities of open source projects will help both the development of the software and the Government's understanding of community priorities. I would hope that just as the Government is encouraging participation in open source communities that it considers the merits of supporting Government agencies participation in the various development pathways of proprietary software.
The public policy objective of this revised Government policy remains the delivery of efficient and effective outcomes for taxpayers and citizens. Microsoft has welcomed the release of the policy in the attached letter to the Minister.
We have also offered to assist AGIMO, if the Government considers it appropriate, in its revision of the Guide to Open Source Software. While there will probably be some who think this would be inappropriate, the offer of contribution has been made in good faith and in recognition of Microsoft Australia's experience with some of the challenges of mixed software environments. I have no doubt that others in both the open source and proprietary software industries have had as much or more experience and would be able to offer AGIMO their advice and guidance. Microsoft's offer is unconditional and assumes AGIMO will be consulting with industry.
Australia is fortunate to have a government procurement environment that is principles based and directed toward getting the best financial and solution outcomes for citizens and taxpayers. The Government's revised open source policy reinforces these aims.
Simon Edwards Director of Corporate Affairs