Australian open-sourcers set up national association

Open Source Industry Australia aims become a 'cheer squad' for open-source software Down Under

Australia's open-source community has established a new body to boost the uptake of free and open-source software in the country's corporate, government and education markets.

Prominent open-source activist Con Zymaris told ZDNet Australia that the new body -- Open Source Industry Australia (OSIA) -- would tackle business issues associated with free and open-source software, including risk assessment, migration and procurement.

Zymaris said OSIA would fill a gap in the market not presently covered by existing organisations, whose aims related mainly to the technical and community aspects of free and open-source software.

"I guess what the open-source community has never had is a marketing function ... and cheer squad," Zymaris said.

While the aim of the organisation was not necessarily to launch a war against proprietary software, "obviously we're keen to push down on our end of the see-saw as hard as possible".

He said the new organisation was formed after discussions between prominent state open source activists at the recent talkfest.

Part of the new body's role will be to sponsor an "ongoing virtual forum" to discuss issues related to the deployment of open-source solutions in government.

Zymaris said "in the first instance", the forum would be a mailing list designed to provide key staffers in state and federal governments with information from open-source experts on issues such as software licensing. So far they had around 30 names registered for the list. If the mailing list option did not work, the organisation would look to schedule a series of face-to-face meetings with those staffers to get their message across.

Zymaris said OSIA would be run "in the same way as an open-source project," with volunteer organisations and individuals donating time and cash to the effort. It would not have a physical office or full-time staff. The body would operate in a national coordinating role in those jurisdictions which already had strong state-based open-source advocacy bodies (South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria), while it would dip into state issues in those jurisdictions without one, such as NSW, Queensland, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the ACT.

He said Australian government organisations typically knew and understood proprietary software issues such as risk assessment, migration and procurement, but had less of a handle on those issues as they related to open-source software. OSIA will endeavour to close that knowledge gap.

Zymaris said the body initially had 50 members across "a very broad spectrum" in the open-source arena, including consultants, solution vendors and laboratories. However, while many Australian government agencies and private players had asked to be "kept informed" as to OSIA's development, the organisation was yet to make contact with any of its international counterparts.

OSIA said in a statement its aims included: becoming the first point of contact for corporations, government and the media on any topic about the national free and open-source software industry, through a free information referral service; helping members improve their local and export business success in marketing open-source products and services and; preparing and disseminating reports, guidelines and procurement policies detailing how to evaluate, acquire and migrate to free and open-source software.

Ian Ferguson reported from Sydney. For more coverage from ZDNet Australia, click here.