Australian government departments open to open source

SYDNEY – The vast majority of Australian federal government agencies have a positive view of open source software, according to a study, with most departments expecting to increase its use over the next five years.

The survey was done in February and March to determine the usage, impact and adoption of free and open source software solutions in government agencies.

A total of 108 agencies were invited to participate in the survey with 65 agencies responding, a response rate of 60 percent.

Eighty-six per cent of responding agencies have a positive view of OSS and expect its usage to increase over the next five years, it found. The “vast majority” of OSS usage is the back-end server environment, OSS functionality, not cost savings, was the highest priority, and some 90 percent of respondents expected increased usage of OSS in the areas of Web applications, science and education, middleware and back-office systems across all levels of the government.

The Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO’s) Guide to Open Source Software for Australian Government Agencies is also “highly valued” as a source of information at agencies.

“Agencies understand that by adopting OSS standards and solutions they could protect their investment in ICT systems, data and software,” according to AGIMO, which commissioned the report. It also found more than 90 percent of agencies believe that OSS and proprietary software can coexist productively.

The areas where OSS solutions are most actively pursued are with Really Simple Syndication, podcasting, content management systems, and agency-specific core business applications.

AGIMO believes this indicates an interest in the uptake of enterprise class FOSS solutions and “agencies indicated their desire to be both vendor and format independent, with the high level of flexibility available to them by using OSS leading to an environment of innovation and transparency”.

In addition to the benefits, the survey also uncovered a number of challenges agencies faced when contemplating using FOSS.

The biggest challenge facing OSS adoption by respondents is OSS |vendor support perceived as problematic.

Other concerns include obtaining relevant information on OSS for government is perceived as being difficult, and, as a result, knowledge of OSS emerging technologies is low, and evaluating OSS solutions is seen as difficult because of the perceived inability for agencies to trial the solutions.

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