The Australian Government has released a new policy aiming to strengthen the consideration of open source by agencies in their software procurements.
According to Special Minister of State, Gary Gray, the last policy, released in 2005, sought to favour neither proprietary or open source offerings by maintaining a position of ‘informed neutrality’.
However, since 2005, there had been an increase in the maturity of the open source software products and the use of open source software by governments around the world.
“In recent years, many governments have revised their policies to increase the adoption of open source software,” a post by Gray on the Australian Government Information and Management Office (AGIMO) blog reads.
“This revised Australian Government policy on open source software will ensure that we maintain international best practice and that our purchases of software will continue to reflect best value for money for the Government.”
However, the principles informing the policy appear to maintain the ‘informed neutrality’ position which underpinned the 2005 policy, neither pushing for or against open source; simply that it be considered.
Principle one states that “Australian Government ICT procurement processes must actively and fairly consider all types of available software”, and that for purchases of more than $80,000 agencies are required to include in their procurement plan that open source software will be considered equally alongside proprietary software.
Agencies will also be required to insert a statement into any Request for Tender that they will consider open source software equally alongside proprietary software
Principle two states that suppliers “must consider all types of available software when dealing with Australian Government agencies”, and that suppliers will need to provide justification outlining their consideration and/or exclusion of open source software in their response to the tender.
Principle three states Australian Government agencies will “actively participate in open source software communities and contribute back where appropriate".
Previously the AGIMO has voiced some scepticism about the use 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 at the time. "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.”