The Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) has released a summary of the findings of its investigations into the use of free and open source software (FOSS) within federal government agencies indicating most expect to increase its use over the next five years.
AGIMO, part of the Department of Finance and Deregulation (formerly Administration) awarded a tender to the Australian Service for Knowledge of Open Source Software (ASK-OSS) in October 2006 to undertake a FOSS survey of Australian government agencies.
The survey was done in February and March 2007 to determine the usage, impact and adoption of FOSS solutions in government agencies.
“The structure of the survey was designed to gather information from both an information and communication technology management and technical perspective,” according to AGIMO.
A total of 108 agencies were invited to participate in the survey with 65 agencies responding, a response rate of 60 per cent.
The key findings of the survey include that 86 per cent of agencies have a positive view of OSS and expect its usage to increase over the next five years, the “vast majority” of OSS usage is the back-end server environment, OSS functionality, not cost savings, was the highest priority, and some 90 per cent 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.
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 also found more than 90 per cent 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.