The federal coalition said it planned to continue encouraging the use of open source software as part of its e-government strategy to help agencies make "informed decisions" regarding information technology needs.
In a statement, the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Helen Coonan, said the government would develop a range of tools to help government agencies "make informed decisions to suit their IT needs and get value for money".
Coonan's comments come as the coalition and government look to gain the upper hand with voters in the information technology and telecommunications arenas ahead of the federal election on 9 October.
Open source software was identified in the government's 2002 'Better services, Better Government' e-government strategy as providing opportunities for innovation, sharing of information technology, and potentially new market opportunities for small Australian businesses.
"Much of the discussion about open source software use in government is confused and ill-informed. This paper seeks to clear the air on the debate and provide some factual information on the government's approach to open source software and how we are acting to provide a level playing field for all suppliers of software solutions to government," Coonan said.
Coonan added that the government is also preparing a range of tools to "help government agencies evaluate emerging open source solutions against more familiar proprietary software on an informed basis and appropriately assessing value for money and fit for purpose."
These materials include an open source sourcing guide, case studies on implementation of open source solutions in a government context, information seminars, and a 'Community of Practice' on open source and emergent technologies.
Coonan said they are also 'white-branding' or facilitating access to open source solutions already developed in government agencies. One example is the Content Management System implemented by the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) developed by an Australian SME, Squiz.net.
Coonan explained that the government is not advocating open source software in all cases and that they are just "acting to identify and remove the impediments to government procurement of open source solutions."