Government ICT spend swells to $5 billion

Federal government spending on ICT has shot up 20 percent over the last 12 to 18 months, with special Minister of State Senator Eric Abetz revealing it is now "investing" around $5 billion a year on the technology sector.

Speaking today at the launch of the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) Guide to open source software at the Open Computing in Government conference in Canberra, Abetz said "the government's annual investment in ICT is in the vicinity of $5 billion a year. Of this, between 15 and 20 percent is new spending.

The figure constitutes a rise of around $1 billion from the previously held Department of Finance ICT spending estimate of between $4.0 billion and $4.2 billion a year and underscores Canberra's position as the single biggest IT spender in Australia.

True to form, Abetz again used the opportunity to reiterate his stated position that the federal government will not be taken for a taxpayer-subsidized ride by vendors seeking to inveigle agencies into contractual lock-ins by reducing up-front costs.

To this end, Abetz cited what is increasingly sounding like a new government procurement doctrine in the form of "informed neutrality" whereby agencies are firmly encouraged by AGIMO best practice guidelines to think outside of purely proprietary procurement models .

"In looking at value, agencies need to consider the total cost of ownership over the life of the software, not just the up-front cost. These principles apply to all software purchasing decisions, whether proprietary or open source.

"The government's approach therefore is one of informed neutrality. It allows open source and proprietary software to operate in a neutral, competitive environment," he said.

This includes the government developing its own solutions and software based on non-proprietary code bases - including the retention of intellectual property - where such solutions provide the best value for money.

Computerworld is currently seeking comment from federal shadow IT spokesman Stephen Conroy, and Microsoft.

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