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[seul-edu] The Age (Oz) trumpets OSS, pans gummint for effectively ignoring it
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- Subject: [seul-edu] The Age (Oz) trumpets OSS, pans gummint for effectively ignoring it
- From: Leon Brooks <email@example.com>
- Date: Wed, 20 Nov 2002 14:36:46 +0800
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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
"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."
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