Despite a new level of openness through the recent adoption of eGovernment and web 2.0 tools, the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) is still cagey when it comes to procurement of open source software.
Commenting at CeBIT Australia 2010, John Sheridan, division manager at AGIMO's Agency Services Division hinted that open source suppliers would need to lift their levels of support if they were to make further inroads into the public sector.
"Our policy on open source remains one of informed neutrality," he said. "Our view is, rather than preferring one particular sort of open source software to another, to make sure our software can be properly supported.
“Tomorrow in [Senate] Estimates I don’t want to be answering a question about the failure of some government website on the basis that it used technology that required support by posting questions on the web in the hope that someone might be able to give us some idea.
“Clearly we can’t do that. We need properly supported software arranged in a way that provides what we need and if that’s open source then that’s good, but if it’s proprietary then maybe we’ll have to do that too. We are driven by the right tool for the task and the proper degree of support for it.”
The comments follow a roundtable on advancing eGovernment which heard that governments were wasting an untapped resource when it came to increasing collaboration between the public and government.
“Within government we are wasting a tremendous untapped resource, which is citizens themselves,” Dr Greg Parston, member 2020 Public Services Commission and UK director, Accenture Institute for Health and Public Service Value, said.
“Citzens can contribute to their own health, education and public safety and a lot of what they can do for a long term win is really engage citizens through these new technologies and educate them on how they can contribute to improving social conditions we are trying to effect.”
Queensland University of Technology Law and Justice Research Centre's Professor Anne Fitzgerald said a key element for improving eGovernment was boosting the level of leadership in the sector.
“There is huge pent up demand in the public sector to move ahead and do this (eGovernment),” she said. “But one of the things we lag behind in... is the policy, the principles and the guidelines in place for agencies on what they can do.
“I don’t think it’s possible to hope and wait for a brilliant individual to take the risk [of moving to eGovernment]. We either have to position innovative people into the public sector, which is what happened in the Obama administration.... I don’t think you are going to find that people [within government] are just going to know how to do this.”