Family First senator backs open source software revolution

Calls for software licensing spend to be redirected

South Australian Family First Senator Dennis Hood today called on the government for funding to support the "free and open source software revolution."

Hood is seeking IT funding to establish a computer demonstration lab in South Australia so that schools, libraries, and other institutions can decide whether open source is a better option than proprietary software.

"Open Source often has significant advantages over proprietary software. With developers all over the world freely and constantly improving the software, it is little wonder that many open source solutions are now outpacing Microsoft products," Hood said.

In a speech to parliament today, Hood used the French government as an example to support his call for funding.

"Last week, it was reported that the French parliament was dumping Microsoft products in place of open source software. The move came after successful transitions by their Ministry of Agriculture and Police," he said.

"From June of next year, French deputies will use desktops and servers running Linux instead of Microsoft Windows, Mozilla's Firefox Web browser in place of Internet Explorer; and OpenOffice as an alternative to Microsoft's Office software.

"Documents will be saved in a non-proprietary Open Document format."

From March this year, the National Archives of Australia also settled on the Open Document format, he added.

"A detailed study concluded that the move will result in substantial savings for the organization despite the associated migration and training costs," Hood said.

"Free and open source software is being produced, as I speak, by developers all over the world - many of them in South Australia. The majority of these developers are volunteers, donating their time and energy to improve and give away free software. And it is free in every sense of the word - free from any licence costs, but also free in the sense that it can be used, copied, studied, modified, improved and redistributed with little or no restriction."

Hood said there are various 'flavours' of Linux, including Red Hat, Novell Suse, and Mandrivane with 'Ubuntu' one of the most popular.

On behalf of the South Australian Ubuntu Users Group, he suggested making funding available in schools to support open source.

Currently, Hood said, funding is being used to maintain software licenses and this spending should be redirected to education and training. Secondly, he said organizations need a lab to test open source software.

"A publicly accessible facility is required where businesses and community groups can test these technologies to learn about whether they are suitable for their purposes," he said.

"Western Australia, with the OpenSource WA Demonstration Centre, and Victoria have both undertaken projects to boot strap their free software sector. It would be great to see something like this in South Australia."

Hood then distributed open source software CDs to members of parliament to encourage further uptake within government.

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