Aust govt enforces equal rights for open source

Under a new policy, government agencies in Australia should actively participate in open source communities and will be required to consider open source options equally in tender decisions.

Government agencies in Australia should actively participate in open source communities and will be required to consider open source options equally when going to tender, under new policy announced Wednesday.

The new policy, announced by Federal Special Minister of State Gary Gray on the Australian Government Information Management Office blog this morning, asks agencies to include a provision in their procurement plans for projects over A$80,000 that the agency will equally consider open source software along with proprietary software. All procurement decisions will be based on "value for money", the policy states.

In addition to this, suppliers to government agencies will also be required to equally consider open source solutions when sourcing requirements to respond to tender requests from government. The policy provided examples of clauses agencies could use to ensure suppliers take open source software into account when responding to tender requests.

"[Agency name] encourages suppliers to submit and/or develop open source software for this tender," the document stated. "When responding to this tender, suppliers must demonstrate a willingness to actively consider open source software throughout all stages of procurement, solution design and implementation in order to produce a product that demonstrates value for money and is fit for purpose. This may include incorporating open source software components together with proprietary software components."

Gray said the original policy needed to be re-evaluated as the open source industry had matured since it was developed in 2005.

"The government's previous policy, established in 2005, was one of 'informed neutrality'," Gray said in the blog post. "This meant that agencies took an unbiased position that did not favour open source or proprietary software and procured the solution that was the best 'value for money' and 'fit for purpose' for their specific requirement."

"Since then, there has been an increase in the maturity of the open source software products and the use of open source software by governments around the world. In recent years, many governments have revised their policies to increase the adoption of open source software," he added. "This revised Australian government policy on open source software will ensure that we maintain international best practice and that our purchases of software will continue to reflect best value for money for the government."

AGIMO faced criticism last week over its decision to mandate the Microsoft-focused office document standard across government agencies over the Open Office XML standard.

The policy commences from Mar.1, 2011.

This article was first published at ZDNet Australia.