Australian government can't recruit fast enough for open source

Australian government can't recruit fast enough for open source

Summary: The Australian government is seeing a lot more demand for open-source support, according to chief technology officer John Sheridan.


The tide is turning with the use of open-source software within the Australian government, according to the chief technology officer John Sheridan, with departments shifting from buying proprietary software to buying support for open-source software such as Drupal.

Speaking at Forrester's Summit For CIOs in Sydney today, Sheridan said that when he first rose through the ranks in government, open source was not an option for government because when it failed, it would not be easy to explain to senators in Senate Estimates.

"You go to Senate Estimates, the senator says, 'Why did your system fail Mr Sheridan?' and I say, 'Well, actually, I was just relying on help that I would find on the internet by posting questions to the bulletin board, and unfortunately no one answered fast enough'," he said.

But there has been a change in the way government approaches open source, he said, with increasing deployment of open source in server rooms and datacentres, but also in web content management systems, in particular with the use of Drupal.

"There's a company in Canberra that has a free Drupal open-source distribution to support government websites. A distribution that supports the particular requirements government has in terms of accessibility, security, and related matters. They of course provide support for that, and that's I guess their business model," he said.

"So popular is Drupal in Canberra at the moment that we're starting to see challenges in getting appropriately qualified staff because they're in such high demand."

A brief search of the Australian government's tender website reveals that many different government agencies, including the Department of Finance and Deregulation, the Department of Climate Change, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, and the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations have all awarded contracts for work on Drupal platforms.

Under current government policy, for projects over AU$80,000, government agencies are required to consider open-source software along with proprietary software, with decisions made based on what offers the most value for money. Sheridan said that in many cases, open source is better value to the government than proprietary software now that better support is available.

"The proprietary solutions require an increasing fees, require expensive support or maintenance costs, and often the more advanced or popular features — the ones that really make a business difference — require so much investment of time and were so hard to get people to do that in some cases, it is prohibitively expensive or impossible to get out of once you're in," he said.

"This change to open source has changed the way I think that we do business."

Topics: Government, Government AU, Open Source, Australia


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • Truly pathetic

    If someone ever responded to me with...

    "Well, actually, I was just relying on help that I would find on the internet by posting questions to the bulletin board, and unfortunately no one answered fast enough"

    I'd fire the brain dead filth on the spot.
    • At which point they would sue you for unfair dismissal and win

      because you hadn't followed the correct policy and procedures :-)
    • Hypothetical?

      I think he was posing a hypothetical counter argument for the use of open-source software.
      David Johnston
      • Hypothetical - Yes

        I think I was too.
  • When it comes to Linux

    It's a real pity that all three of you are brain dead, you have not got a clue what's going on in the world outside of the broken windows, If you don't know why M$ have locked down windows 8 systems then GOD help you, you need it, M$ will control your, Mind and Body and Back accounts You will be forever paying a high price for using windows

    Not only the Australian government have moved to Linux so have all the governments in Europe, In fact there are over a million job vacancy in America because American companies are moving to Linux also and What do you think the American government Post office, Navy NASA, use for their operating system, Do your home work, Google search for... 50 places Linux runs. .. It will open your eyes,
    • Wow, Linux is everywhere

      Nice articles and search info Carling!

      One place that the article misses is Lowes hardware. They use Linux everywhere too. That list from the link - - was compiled in 2010... You can only imagine how much more expansive it it now :)

      Thanks again for the info!
  • Linux knowledge or support

    You would think the largest telco in the country.....Telstra, have staff trained to
    deal with connectivity issues relating to
    customers currently using any of the Linux
    It's either too hard or hey, God forbid, they may have to invest a few dollars. Why not just maintain the status quo. Slow to change, you bet. Lack of vision by those that dictate direction, hmm!
    The Stav