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[seul-edu] The Age (Oz) trumpets OSS, pans gummint for effectively ignoring it


    Australia's federal and state governments are under fire for taking
    a blinkered approach to information technology spending - ignoring
    local companies and alternatives to Microsoft.

    Microsoft's grip on government IT spending has strengthened after
    it struck multi-million-dollar long-term deals with Canberra, the
    governments of Victoria, Queensland and South Australia and various
    government departments [that's our EdDept!].

    [...] Senator Kate Lundy [said] federal IT spending with Microsoft
    has already placed the government in an "innovation straitjacket."

    "Microsoft have been putting a lot of effort into trying to lock
    up agencies and departments into long-term deals," Lundy says.
    "IT outsourcing and the way it has been managed has put what I
    call an innovation straitjacket on agencies and departments. That's
    partly because they're big, clustered contracts and they're
    effectively run by a committee, so small agencies can't be
    innovative and flexible in their thinking about where their
    solution is going to come from."

    Lundy has called for Australia to copy overseas moves to examine
    Microsoft alternatives such as open source.


    Open source has begun to make inroads locally. The Department of
    Veterans' Affairs, Centrelink and Bureau of Meteorology recently
    made separate decisions to move part of their IT infrastructure
    to Linux. Early this year, the Northern Territory Department of
    Education replaced Microsoft software with the open source word
    processing suite StarOffice 5.2 in its 160 schools.

    Such moves are hampered in most government departments by lack
    of expertise in evaluating non-Microsoft alternatives, says the
    Victorian shadow minister for technology and innovation, Victor

    "Even on their own admissions, (the Victorian government) don't
    have the skills in-house to buy local and there's no incentive
    system for public servants to actually put their neck on the line
    to buy local," Perton says.

    The Victorian government struck an $80 million four-year contract
    with Microsoft this year. Perton "can't find any evidence" that
    alternatives were considered.


    Federal and state government contracts are certainly prejudiced
    against local products in favour of multinationals such as
    Microsoft, says Australian Computer Society national president
    Richard Hogg.

    "Governments, when they're looking at software, should certainly
    give Australian software houses and Australian software products
    an equal hearing in any tender or contract debate," Hogg says.

    "It should be assessed on merits and not because it's American it
    must be good or because it's Australian it can't be good. That
    unfortunate attitude still prevails and for me it's an insult to
    the Australian software industry."

    The nature of government contracts and tenders generally
    disadvantages Australian small businesses, Hogg says.

    "The red tape and the bureaucracy tends to make it difficult for
    a small company to compete on a level playing field. 

    "They can't sit around waiting for a decision, and decisions can
    take much longer than they should. Contracts are loaded towards
    multinationals because of issues such as insurance, where you need
    $20 million cover for a $3 million contract."

Cheers; Leon

http://www.cyberknights.com.au/  Modern tools, traditional dedication
http://slpwa.linux.org.au/       Member, Linux Professionals West Aus
http://conf.linux.org.au/        THE Australian Linux Technical Conf:
                                 22-25 January 2003, Perth: be there!