A move to open source and away from proprietary information management systems will help government departments avoid steep maintenance fees and increase the longevity of data, members of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and South Australian parliaments said at the recent Linux open source in government conference in Adelaide.

Shadow minister for IT, Senator Kate Lundy, warned delegates that vendor “lock-in” is not just a theory.

“In the past vendors have locked in government departments in order to get recurring business,” Lundy said. “Open standards is about longevity and having reference material available in the future.”

Lundy claimed that about 85 per cent of big contracts involved maintaining legacy systems.

“There is a transition going on where governments are (re-evaluating) proprietary hardware and software to see how more use can be made of open systems,” she said.

South Australian member of the Democratic party, Ian Gilfillan, the first Australian politician to propose a law mandating consideration of open source software in government purchasing, said locked-in information remains a serious concern for government departments and the public.

“Users of government services are (being) frustrated by not being able to access information,” Gilfillan said.

Because of such situations, Gilfillan said governments were obliged to free themselves of vendor lock-in.

Open source software consultant Dan Shearer said the security implications of open standards-based information exchange between government departments should be less of a concern than those of proprietary systems.

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