Max McLaren (Australia) - Leading Government Down an Open (Source) Path

In January, the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) took its support of open source one step further by requiring government agencies and departments to consider open source software in their procurement processes. This new policy took effect in March, and there's been plenty of discussion and analysis around what it really means and who actually benefits.

The reality is that open source already has a significant footprint in all levels of government, and has had for some time. Open source has spread throughout departments and agencies like wildfire, proving its value time and time again, both from a cost-savings perspective and a reliability viewpoint. In fact, supported, enterprise-ready open source software is often at the heart of mission-critical operations within a significant number of government entities - both in Australia and around the world.

It's fair to say that internationally public sector and government organisations are adopting increasingly mature open source products, and it's pleasing to say that Australia is at the forefront of that trend. The new policy certainly acknowledges the value that solutions from open source software organisations, like Red Hat, deliver for the Australian Government. In fact, such organisations have had a presence in Canberra for over seven years, as a direct result of the demand for cost-effective and supported open source software alternatives. In that time, Red Hat alone has provided open source software solutions to over 80 Australian Government Federal Agencies and a significant number of Australian State Government Departments.

We have always lived by the credo that our software must offer users better value for money than the alternatives, be they proprietary or open source. The success we've experienced over the last decade - and the steady increase in enterprise users from the public and private sectors - suggests that we're delivering on that objective. A number of analyst studies also give evidence of that success, and most recently IDC's whitepaper ‘The Business Value of JBoss Enterprise Application Platform' revealed a staggering ROI of 569% over three years, when investigating how six large, US-based organisations used JBoss to develop custom applications.

So on the one hand, the new policy confirms what we already know - it formally recognises that open source software has asignificant role to play in delivering cost-saving solutions for AustralianGovernment IT requirements, but on the other hand, the government isn't the only winner in this new scenario.

TheAGIMO's endorsement of Australian Government Agencies' participation and contributions to open source software communities, is an important factor in the new policy, and its significance is not to be underestimated - it carries great potential for the local ICT industry.

It's widely known by the international open source community that Australia has a very talented, yet often undervalued, pool of open source developers as part of ‘the community', and the new policy opens up plenty of doors when it comes to exciting new opportunities to showcase their talent.

There's a big open source world out there, and as an open source company ourselves, we certainly realise that we don't have a monopoly on good ideas. We understand - and promote the idea - that collaboration with people and organisations makes for better software. Our very success relies on that philosophy because the performance, capabilities and reliability of our software is the result of a development model that relies on the participation of others, so we actively encourage talented people in Government and corporate Australia to contribute their ideas to open source development communities.

Afterall, the greater the local talent, the greater the opportunity for Australia to spawn software that better satisfies the requirements of not just Australian organisations, but those around the world.

By Max McLaren, Managing Director, for Red Hat (Australia and New Zealand).






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