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AGIMO outs open-source software draft

The Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) has outed the draft of its open-source software guide, following a change to its policy forcing agencies to consider free and open software as seriously as proprietary offerings.

The Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) has outed the draft of its open-source software guide, following a change to its policy forcing agencies to consider free and open software as seriously as proprietary offerings.

The draft, published to the AGIMO blog yesterday by first assistant secretary Policy and Planning Glenn Archer, serves as an update to a document first released in 2005.

The new draft defines open-source software for government departments and explains what needs to be considered when looking at procuring open-source software for agency use.

In her foreword, Ann Steward, chief information officer for the Australian Government, said that open-source offers government departments increased interoperability and greater cost savings versus proprietary operating systems.

"This guide provides practical information to assist agencies assess open-source software solutions, including the key issues to consider when procuring open-source software," Steward added.

AGIMO has urged agencies to be mindful of factors like total cost of ownership when selecting open-source packages, adding that "free" software doesn't always mean without cost.

"Another common misconception about open-source software is that it can always be obtained free of financial cost. However, despite this, open-source software is usually available free of upfront costs, although agencies still need to be aware of the total cost of ownership … including all support services that will be required to operate the software over its lifespan," AGIMO said in the draft.

The draft guide also addresses modification of open-source software and carries various warnings around licensing and copyright issues.

If an agency modifies a piece of software distributed under an open-source license that requires all derivations and changes to be published back to the community, that agency must publish their code or risk being in breach of the license.

Given this legal minefield, AGIMO is discouraging modification of software packages.

"The main focus of this guide is on using open-source software without modifying it," AGIMO said.

AGIMO is seeking comments on the draft open-source guide via its blog until 15 April.

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