New Zealand government urged to use open source

Support is growing for a campaign urging the New Zealand government to consider open source software for government computing.

Names are being added daily to an open letter to the government, at, which as of Wednesday morning totaled 90. The letter, organized by Christchurch-based David Lane, is addressed to IT minister Paul Swain, State Services Minister Trevor Mallard and Minister of Research, Science and Technology Pete Hodgson.

Those who have signed include professionals who provide open source services, as well as academics and staff of corporates.

Signatory Ralph Loader, a senior software engineer for Intel Corp. NZ, says he was prompted to add his name to the letter when he saw the government’s NZ$10 million (US$4.1 million) contract with Microsoft to supply Microsoft software to New Zealand schools being touted as a good deal. “Basically they could have got it for nothing if they’d used open source software,” he says. “I think the government should be trying to reduce its costs by looking at alternatives.”

David Hallet, a developer with Hamilton software developers Intaz, agrees. “They’re throwing money at multinational companies which goes out of New Zealand.”

NIWA research scientist Stephane Popinet wants the government to use open source standards for file formats rather than open source software. “If you use proprietary formats you need to rely on proprietary software to read your own documents.”

Last week the head of the State Services Commission e-government unit, Brendan Boyle, said the government doesn’t have a policy favoring open source software.

Those who have signed the letter would still like to see the government consider one.