Open source applications differ from their proprietary cousins because the underlying source code used to create an OSS application is freely available. OSS developers are encouraged to make improvements and fix bugs as long as they then share those changes with the rest of the open source community.
Sam Higgins, senior analyst at Forrester in Australia and New Zealand, who authored a report on Australia and New Zealand's OSS adoption rates, told ZDNet Australia that he was "quite shocked" by the number of Australian companies that did not even consider allowing their developers to contribute back to open source projects.
"I was quite shocked that some people said, 'no, we just don't do that'. The implication is that the quality and innovation in software is coming from outside Australia, which would be disappointing," said Higgins.
Higgins explains that he found administrators had been "conditioned" into buying from, and relying on, large software vendors for all updates and bug fixes.
"The problem that Australian firms have IT managers that are used to buying software. If they have a development manager that says, 'hey, I want to get involved in this [OSS] project', the administrator says, 'why do I need to contribute? That is what the vendor is for'," said Higgins.
According to Higgins, this misunderstanding has come about because administrators still treat OSS software in the same way they treat commercial software, which can cause serious issues when dealing with newly discovered bugs and flaws.
"What happens when [the administrator] finds a critical security flaw? A couple of guys I spoke to said 'we just look for the latest fix on the Web site'. What if there isn't one? And they responded: 'Well, we don't know what to do then'," said Higgins.
[Administrators] need to organise themselves and stop treating OSS like commercial software when it isn't, he added.
Australasian OSS adoption lags behind
According to Higgins's report, which was published on Wednesday and compiled with responses from 125 IT decision makes from a range of government and industry sectors, OSS use in Australia and New Zealand is around three times lower than in the US.
The report found that 16 percent of Australasian firms currently use Linux and OSS software with only 8 percent planning on moving systems away from proprietary software over the next year. The report also found that 77 percent of Australasian firms have no plans to adopt any Linux or OSS products over the next 12 months.