Open source geeks asked to 'stand up and be counted'

Australians working with open source software are urged to participate in an online census launched this week to discover the capabilities of the local industry.

Australians working with open source software are urged to participate in an online census launched this week to discover the capabilities of the local industry.

Organiser Jeff Waugh told ZDNet Australia that the Australian Open Source Industry & Community Census 2007 aims to gain a full understanding of the Australian open source industry -- "including which companies are selling, supporting or servicing open source solutions in Australia, which Australian citizens are contributing to the open source movement, even which ex-pats are working on open source projects overseas."

The census is being conducted by open source consultancy Waugh Partners and is sponsored by government-funded organisation National ICT Australia, as well as vendors IBM and Fujitsu. It also has the support of local advocacy bodies for Linux developers, Linux Australia, and the open source industry in the form of the Open Source Industry Association.

Waugh said the census will help overcome the common complaint among IT end users that they would use open source solutions if they knew where to go for support.

A recent study of federal government agencies by the Australian Government Information Management Office found that two in three agencies are using open source software, but even amongst those users there is a perception that support is hard to find.

"Anecdotally, we know better than that," Waugh said. "But nobody will listen to anecdotes, we need this census to show just how strong Australia is in terms of skills and knowledge around open source."

Waugh said Australia actually boasts one of the highest contribution rates to open source projects per capita in the world. "Some of the most interesting and innovative projects are from here," he added.

It was Canberra-based coder Dr Andrew Tridgell, for example, that kicked off the Samba open source project which, for the better part of a decade, has allowed file and print interoperability between Linux/Unix servers and Windows clients and vice versa.

Some of the key contributors to the Linux Kernel, Waugh adds, such as Rusty Russell and Andrew Morton, are Australians, while Waugh himself is a contributor to the Gnome desktop project.

A report on the census results will be freely distributed in February.

The data will then be used to build an online "open source business directory", which will enable users to find open source services based on location, type of organisation, and skills within the organisation.

Waugh says he expects to expand the census next year, and update it every two years after.

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