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Lobbyists Urge South Australia To Drop Open Source Bill 248

Posted by timothy
from the commonwealth-means-what-again dept.
Red Wolf writes "The Age reports that South Australia has caused eyebrows at the Initiative for Software Choice (ISC) to be raised in concern, with the organisation writing to Premier Mike Rann over a proposed Open Source software bill. The ISC, by its own definition, is a "global coalition of large and small companies committed to advancing the concept that multiple competing software markets should be allowed to develop and flourish unimpeded by government preference or mandate"."
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Lobbyists Urge South Australia To Drop Open Source Bill

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  • I wonder (Score:3, Interesting)

    by HornyBastard (666805) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:12AM (#6220838)
    how many of the lobbyists work for microsoft.
    • Re:I wonder (Score:5, Informative)

      by uroshnor (443541) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @06:23AM (#6221036)
      Whilst MS is probably a player in this, keep in mind that the South Australian State Government's IT is almost totally outsourced to EDS ( who are a ISC member, and a MS solution parter at a very big way ).

      EDS's revenues in the SA State Government Cotnract would be impacted by an open source direction , as EDS derives revenue both from selling software and hardware to the government, as well as supporting the systems.

      As EDS is a major sized player, one of the ways they derive revenue is by screwing commercial developers down on price, and then selling to their customers at as high a price they can get away with.

      Extensive use of OSS/Free software would impact this because they would have reduced capability to pad their revenue.

  • Same old same old (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geschild (43455) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:14AM (#6220844) Homepage

    The article doesn't detail the intricacies of the law so I'll just guess: government wants to make itself consider Open Source first before spending money on the propriety route.

    Naturally, propriety software producers' lobying group sees their collective future sales go to hell and starts whining.

    Next steps:
    - Condemn the lobying group
    - call on all local geeks to pressure the governement to accept the proposed ammendment.
    - start an all out flamewar with the trolls on " the relative merrits of both types of software".

    Now if somebody mods this up high enough fast enough, we can get this over with real soon... *grin*.

    • Nonetheless... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MickLinux (579158) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:36AM (#6220909) Journal
      ... I have to say that *my* opinion has been changed by the slashdot news items, and I think other peoples' may be too.

      Normally, I like to choose the best software for the best application. However, the idea of public data is important.

      The argument that convinced me was the pro-business alternatives that should be required: open data format, with full perpetual license to read and convert to other formats, should be acceptable for most purposes [not voting: The US demonstrates the flaws of closed-source vote tallying].

      That said, I feel that even this requirement should stand only for the case of items of public record on computer. That is, you don't need MS Word to be open source/data format, if your only documents of record are on paper.

      Now, people have had this flamewar going for who knows how long. But even flamewars can convince people. They moved me from "no regulation" to "encourage OSS".

      After all, it is one person who decides which software to buy. But he's deciding for the property of others. Closed and open formats are not equal, therefore.
      • Re:Nonetheless... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by geschild (43455)

        To be honest, I agree that a "heated discussion" can help to form ones mind on a topic. I do think, however, that it may not be the best or even the fastest way to change someones mind.

        Please remember this comes from a person who is renowned for his hard-headedness.

        (fwiw, I agree with your arguments too, but that's my opinion. I also think there are other arguments in favour of government regulating in favour of OSS which is, again, my opinion.)

      • Re:Nonetheless... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jodo (209027)
        You have it about right but,

        That said, I feel that even this requirement should stand only for the case of items of public record on computer. That is, you don't need MS Word to be open source/data format, if your only documents of record are on paper.

        If public data resides in a digital form "we the people" need access into perpetuity. The only way to assure this is open data formats, including the right to convert our data into formats of our choosing.
      • Re:Nonetheless... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by JonK (82641) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @10:03AM (#6222152)
        While I'd agree entirely with your thesis (that it's the ability to access the data, rather than the application per se that's important), there's an additional interesting question arising... let's say that I'm a good little data archivist and store all my documents in an open format (say PDF) to mitigate the risk of my software vendor going out of business. Now, where do I store those PDFs? Are EMC, Hitachi or IBM SANs sufficiently open that I can get the data off them without using EMC/Hitachi/IBM software/firmware? What about the ArcServe or BackupExec storage formats?

        Just a thought...

    • You're correct, as the bill itself states, in part 17(a) -

      " A public authority must, in making a decision about the procurement of computer software for its operations, have regard to the principle that, wherever practicable, a public authority should use open source software in preference to proprietary software"

      The writer, in his statement, expresses that the relative cheapness, flexibility and the robustness and secureness of open source products is why they should be preferred, due to their sour
      • by geschild (43455)

        With due thanks to the poster of the relevant proposed law-text.

        If you are doing bussiness it's always good to keep the order of how to plan things in mind:
        1) Decide on strategy
        2) Decide on tactics
        3) Decide on operational issues

        On a tactical level, propriety software may come out on top when making choices based on input from the operational side while on a strategic level it would be the worst choice you can make. It is therefore necesarry that tactics are dictated by strategy which may mean that you hav

    • Both are right from their viewpoints, but the problem is that one is focussed on the present and one is focussed on the future. And, unfortunately, the Past, the last element of the trinity of time, (Past Present & Future) heavily influences the trajectory from the Present to the Future, i.e. the massive adoption of Windows and the talent developed around it.

      Lobbyists want me to focus on the Present because there paychecks are from week to week, while Linux-Spirited want me to focus on the future because their spirit gets strokes from knowing that the world may be a better place a few years down in the Future. So, when you look at what impels the Closed Source and what impels the Open Source advocate, the motivational engines are different. And if the motivational engines are different, is this battle really about personalities ?

      I have the full opportunity to design a small office for an Asian Sports Body. I love the idealism of OSS, and also KNOW that the future belongs to it if the world turns out the way it should, but may have to sign my office to a Windows shop. A request for help in making this choice last week on Slashdot got me some good responses along the same lines. Why ? Because in the PRESENT Windows Platform is big enough to probabilistically hold solutions to all the problems I am likely to come across, but in Linux the world is small enough that statistically I am sure to run into problems for which solutions don't exist.

      Two different viewpoints - one by which I select Windows and a different one by which I reject Linux in the PRESENT. And I accept one probabilistically, and reject another statistically.

      But I choose Windows over Linux only because I have to choose today, in the Present. If I could broaden my horizon for a year or two, then it is possible that the tradeoff I have designed for Win vs. Linx won't be so lop-sided. And hence, if I could broaden my horizons a better case can be made for Linux. Bottomline, in a narrow window of time I choose Windows or other "closed source" software, but in a broader window of time I choose Linux.

      I like to look at this issue as if the battle been set and both the Closed and Open guys are playing their roles on the stage. These battles have to be fought, and who fights them is not that important. What people must do has been predecided by the role they have been cast in, which is based on their motivational engine, which is based on the orientation in time that they can afford to have.

      Well, after all this Matrix-like discussion, I hate to come to a cliche conclusion, but, can we cut out these personal attacks, and hash out the real issues? But, again, what is reality ? Maybe it is the Matrix. Wait, does that mean Linus is Neo?

      • by geschild (43455) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @08:29AM (#6221404) Homepage

        As I've stated in another reply under this subject: Strategy first, then tactics, then operational issues.

        The benefits of OSS usually are more on a strategic level. If you can do without those benefits for now and the drawbacks won't keep you from enjoying those benefits a few years down the road, you're right. If not (read: stuck to propriety standards without a way to get out) then maybe you should think again about those 'benefits' you get from going with MS Windows right now.

        Whatever you choose, please remember that if you think you've done everything to make the right choice, everbody proclaiming you are nuts to choose whatever you choose is wrong (and probably a troll). Good luck on your decission.

      • Unfortunately, if most of people choose Windows® in the Present, Open Source solutions will have less users, which means that the statistical probablities of those people having everything on Windows® and running into problems with GNU/Linux and other Open Source easily increases, which would mean that in the Future the choice is even easier.

        Whether there actually are such problems for a given domain of "things I want to do" is unfortunately irrelevant. These days it already takes me

        • by leoaugust (665240) <leoaugust@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @09:00AM (#6221613) Journal

          I agree that the key is Open Data formats.

          Once sufficent people move to standard formats, and a good set of tools are available to visually manage the data in standard formats, (GUI with Win and Outlook like capabilities) - people will not notice when Windows is slipped from under them and replaced with another OS. The POWER of Windows is Just the GUI that it has created, and a lot of sunken investment of time in learning that GUI. Once the GUI become OUI (Object User Interface) or BUI (Bubble Use Interface) the Windows GUI paradigm will be replaced with something more powerful. And I can feel it in my guts that it is coming - it will almost be akin to a Graphical implementation of XML - really a graphical implementation not based on characters like it is currently.

          Personally, I have tried to move to standard formats, and that is where I try to keep all my data.

          • I like to keep everything in either txt files, or with some personal markup in an XML-like file, and finally html. Word is used only when I am about to print a document, or need to send someone something formatted - required in less that 10 % of the cases really.
          • I use Excel to view and analyze the data, but try to keep it all in a standard format, i.e. txt, xml-like or html.
          • I like to keep images in jpg. And I love to annotate images with Winpointer 2 - which saves the annotations in a almost-text file.
          • If I put stuff in things like an Addressbook I make sure that I can dump the data out into a standard format.
          • I try to use only the visual and sorting tools in Outlook for differnt categories, hierarchies, but otherwise make sure that all my data is also available in standard format. If Outlook were to disappear from the world tomorrow I would miss it, but would have nothing really "tied" into it.

          Basically, If I could do my little bit in separating the Document from the View (which MS has tried to blur for the user), I believe I would be doing my bit for the OS software.

          So, yes, you are right. Open Dataformats are the key.

        • Open data formats are the key. I am held to a MSWindows system. More specifically, I am held to a Win95 system. There is this application with a proprietary data file format that doesn't run under anything else. And it has years of data in it.

          This is a real problem, as my old Win95 disks won't install on a new computer (either the disks are corrupt, or they are missing needed drivers). And the old computer is dying. I keep hoping that Wine or WineX will come to the rescue, but so far they have failed
    • by kinnell (607819) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @06:10AM (#6220998)
      first before spending money on the propriety route

      I don't think cost is the main issue. The point of open source in government is that if using closed source/closed standards, a private company, possibly foreign, has control over all your data. This is sinister, and not the sort of position any democratic body should put itself in. This is the main point of all the various similar bills being considered/implemented around the world ATM. It's not about free(beer) versus commercial software - it's about control of data.

      • Bob Kramer's briefing on OSS is at: http://www.infodev.org/presentations/OpenSource02/ kramer.pdf

        It's mostly fine and reasonable, except for: "No government should legislate interoperability".

        J.

      • Agreed. That is the best argument for governement institutions. Usually that's not the first argument that is used by governement officials though. Reason: it doesn't sell...

    • by HardcoreGamer (672845) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @06:15AM (#6221017)

      ''The article doesn't detail the intricacies of the law...''

      No need to guess about the bill - here's the text of the proposed legislation. See the bold text for the important part:


      [BIL148-A.LCA]

      [Advance (1)]

      South Australia

      [Prepared by the Parliamentary Counsel on the instructions of the Hon. I. Gilfillan, M.L.C.]

      STATE SUPPLY (PROCUREMENT OF SOFTWARE) AMENDMENT
      BILL 2003

      A BILL FOR
      An Act to amend the State Supply Act 1985.

      [OPC-LC]

      Contents

      Part 1â"Preliminary
      1. Short title
      2. Amendment provisions

      Part 2â"Amendment of State Supply Act 1985
      3. Insertion of Part 3A
      Part 3Aâ"Special provisions relating to supply operations of public authorities
      17A. Principle applying to the procurement of computer software

      The Parliament of South Australia enacts as follows:

      Part 1â"Preliminary

      Short title
      1. This Act may be cited as the State Supply (Procurement of Software) Amendment Act 2003.

      Amendment provisions
      2. In this Act, a provision under a heading referring to the amendment of a specified Act amends the Act so specified.

      Part 2â"Amendment of State Supply Act 1985

      Insertion of Part 3A
      3. After Part 3 insert:

      Part 3Aâ"Special provisions relating to supply operations of public authorities

      Principle applying to the procurement of computer software
      17A. (1) A public authority must, in making a decision about the procurement of computer software for its operations, have regard to the principle that, wherever practicable, a public authority should use open source software in preference to proprietary software.

      (2) In this sectionâ"
      "distribute" means distribute for free or on payment of the reasonable costs of distribution;
      "open source software" means computer software the subject of a licence granting a person a rightâ"
      (a) without any limitation or restriction, to use the software for any purpose; and
      (b) without any limitation or restriction, to make copies of the software for any purpose; and
      (c) without any limitation or restriction, to access or modify the source code of the software for any purpose; and
      (d) without payment of a royalty or other fee, to distribute copies ofâ"
      (i) the software (including as a component of an aggregate distribution containing computer software from several different sources); or
      (ii) a derived or modified form of the software, (whether in compiled form or in the form of source code), under the same terms as the licence applying to the software;
      "proprietary software" means computer software that is not open source software.

      PRINTED UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF THE GOVERNMENT PRINTER

      • What's the World coming to! What's next? Legislator recommending that the government should buy land instead of renting land whenever possible.

        The arrogance of foreign legislators never ceases to amaze me.

      • First of all: thanks for the law-texts. To other readers: in this [slashdot.org] reply is a link to a site with the original document in pdf.

        So the law is a bit better than I expected. It also lacks some crucial aspects.

        It's better because:
        - it concentrates on the upsides of the "free as in speech" argument.
        - it doesn't exclude propriety, it says that open source should be considered first.

        What could be added:
        - Concentrate more on interoperability and open data formats.

  • by Bloodmoon1 (604793) <be...hyperion@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:15AM (#6220847) Homepage Journal
    So, basically if I'm understanding this right, and correct me if I'm wrong, the Initiative for Software Choice is lobbying to basically remove South Australia's choice to use Open Source Software from consideration and more or less force them into using closed source software. Kind of ironic. Groups with names that don't support their actual agenda like this should really be openly chastised by major media outlets for being hypocritical to the point of just being ridiculous, if not just made flat out illegal. Think of it as a truth-in-advertising kind of thing. A company/group/whatever's name is their best form of advertising, it forms the base of their brand recognition. So if their name is so out of whack from their goals, it's kind of like misleading advertising.
    • by henbane (663769) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:21AM (#6220870)
      Whilst I haven't done any background checking on the Initiative for Software Choice I think what they seem to be saying is that the best tool for any particular job should be picked. In a case of government contracts I don't see why this should be a problem. Just because they're favouring one side now and it happens to be yours doesn't make it a better system - if the current bill was advising to try proprietary software before open source you'd think it was ridiculous so why isn't the reverse true?
      • by bakes (87194) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:34AM (#6220906) Journal
        this Bill is a simple one, and yet, it has the potential to do great things for our state. It requires procurement people in public authorities to consider the alternative of using open source software, and wherever practicable, using open source in preference to proprietary software.

        It says that if OSS is not practicable for whatever reason, don't use it. But it must be given a fair go.

        Nothing wrong with that. Not prejudiced to either side (open or closed) in my view.
      • by mhifoe (681645) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:44AM (#6220925)
        Whilst I haven't done any background checking on the Initiative for Software Choice I think what they seem to be saying is that the best tool for any particular job should be picked.

        The lobby group consists of these people [softwarechoice.org].

        It's the usual suspects (MS included). A bill which requires Open Source to be considered will harm their business model. Therefore it must be stopped. Note that the bill doesn't prevent the use of proprietary software, it merely requires people who procure software for the public sector to consider open source. That sounds like software choice to me.

      • I agree completely. I'd rather see a bill that states its desires in terms of needs (functionality, security, TCO, etc...) rather than solutions. If open source is judged to fit these criteria the best, it will win. I don't believe that open source needs or should have this sort of "positive discrimination". It should win or lose based on its merits. By the way, for those who are intersted, here's the bill [linuxsa.org.au].
        • I would counter that the bill does not go far enough!

          I would agree in principal that the best software should be chosen (by governments) for the given task, with needs, functionality, TCO, etc., used as the prominent criteria. My taxes have to pay for it, and the quality of public services depends on it. However, my own municipal and state governments have been using this strategy for many years now and they are up to their eyeballs in proprietary software and hogtied by very expensive vendor lock-in.

          I

      • by geschild (43455) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @06:01AM (#6220965) Homepage

        Hook, line and sinker. Why do I always go at it again? Oh well, lets get on with it:

        I agree that the best solution should be sought for the problem, regardless of the origin. However, the specific benefits of open source are not engrained in the selection criteria for governement software selction procedures because these procedures have always been directed at propriety software. (Primary criteria like open data formats, access to the source code if the company goes bust. Secondary things like being able to tinker with it, audit the code during its lifetime, being able to choose another company to maintain it if they're cheaper. That sort of thing.)

        By putting into law that open source should be considered, you take away a disadvantage for open source (equal opportunity). You don't give it an unfair advantage.

        Because the article doesn't state the precise content of the law or an explanation of it, we can only guess whether it makes it impossible to select the best solution for the problem (oss or propriety).

        This is why I say: lets just leave this one alone unless we get more info. It's not worth the fight.


        • The Government of Australia could always require that a "closed source" company provide their source-code in Escrow, to protect their investment should the "closed source" software provider go bankrupt.

          The company I work for has done that before for some large clients. Provided our Source Code (fully compilable) to an Escrow firm as part of our contract. If we go out of business, they get the source code so they can continue to maintain the application as needed.
      • by iamacat (583406) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @06:04AM (#6220973)
        If the government buys Microsoft software, it will have to pay for software and ALSO have to pay for support only available from a single source and outside the country. If it buys open source software, it only has to pay for support and has a variety of competing companies, including investing tax money back into local economy. A government has a duty to minimize costs and if possible re-invest money into local economy, don't you think?

        Now consider a private business or a citizen. If a government produces documents using proprietory software, s\he will probably also have to use the same proprietory software. If OSS is used, multiple commercial vendors will support it and people will be able to access the data using OSS software without spending additional money and on the platform of their choice.

        I am not saying all software should be open source. Some projects are so expensive (think realistic 3d games) or unpleasent (think Cobol IDE) to program that the cost can only be recovered with large scale software sales. But if the open source is already available, the government should take advantage of it to save costs for itself and for private entities it interacts with.
        • If the government buys Microsoft software, it will have to pay for software and ALSO have to pay for support only available from a single source and outside the country.

          <sarcasm> Yeah, it's pretty hard to find people to support Microsoft software. </sarcasm>

        • So are you saying that Australia has noone capable of supporting Microsoft software? That's like saying that buying a PC in Australias just provides money to whichever foreign company made it.

          All of the products and services sold have distribution channels and each part takes a cut, ploughing money back into the local economy.

          Do Microsoft Australia and their employees pay no taxes? Who do you think gets commission for selling Microsoft products?

          You don't have to fly in someone from the States every tim
      • by g4dget (579145)
        if the current bill was advising to try proprietary software before open source you'd think it was ridiculous so why isn't the reverse true?

        Because we generally prefer our governments not to pay money for something they can get for free. Putting free and non-free stuff on equal footing invites corruption.

        Spending money should require special justification, while not spending money shouldn't. And in the case of, say, Microsoft licenses, we aren't talking a little money, we are talking a huge amount of m
      • From CompTIA's website (yes, http://softwarechoice.org is a pointer to CompTIA):

        Protects and advances the interests of the information and communications technology industries before foreign governments, federal and state legislatures and agencies, including regulators. CompTIA's public policy staff is located in Washington, DC and Brussels with advocacy capabilities in Canada and several states.

        'Information and communications technology industries' are the keywords. The usual suspects. 15,000 member
      • Whilst I haven't done any background checking on the Initiative for Software Choice

        Widely believed to be MS with a wide-brimmed hat on, but no-one has proved it yet. I've done some surfing on the names that've come out so far, but never found anyone's CV or similar to see of there's any truth in it. Try it yourself: whoever Bob Kramer (signatory on the letter) is, he's not got a public persona to speak of.

        I think what they seem to be saying is that the best tool for any particular job should be picked

      • Whilst I haven't done any background checking on the Initiative for Software Choice I think what they seem to be saying is that the best tool for any particular job should be picked

        Now there's an idea! "Best tool for a job" is a tired cliche with not much basis in reality. "Best" is always determined by many things (knowledge, future plans, price etc.) and is wildly subjective in any case. And sometimes openness of file formats is what makes a tool "the best for the job", even if it lacked some less impor
      • Quite, in this case. As Slashdot blurb reads, the ISC is a "global coalition of large and small companies committed to advancing the concept that multiple competing software markets should be allowed to develop and flourish unimpeded by government preference or mandate." Well, great. But in this case, there *was* a competing market, and the government chose the open source model at least as a starting block (nothing more). The hypocrisy of the ISC lies in the fact that they are not, in fact, proponents of c
    • It's actually not as bad as it sounds.

      The idea of choosing software based upon freedom of choice is very good.

      I suspect I'm different from most /.ers though, I don't get software just because it's free, nor because it's open source. I generally evaluate several pieces of software and the one that fulfils my set of requirements and is within my budget to purchase I opt for.

      This generally has led me away from most freeware and open source stuff, and towards a hell of a lot of shareware and small company st
      • by intermodal (534361) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:40AM (#6220917) Homepage Journal
        that's all fine and good for your personal use, but when it comes to government use, i'd prefer they look towards open source before using my taxes to pay for something they may not have needed.

        Is Windows sometimes the proper choice? yes. Is windows the proper choice for a low-level bitpusher who only uses a word processor and email? no.

        When discussing work and government computers, the vast majority of business and government applications have no need for an expensive Windows license or Microsoft Office. The only thing keeping it there is proprietary formats, which seem to be something the government should move away from rather than perpetuating.

        So I don't think that "the best software for the job" is the angle we should look at for government purposes, but rather "does this software do its job well enough to make it unnecessary to purchase proprietary software" or "does this software do its job poorly enough that it justifies buying proprietary software".

        How's that for you?
      • Set a precedent so that the lawmakers will not buy into an unrelated but sure-to-happen future legislation - the consideration of open FORMATS, which is the real deal.

        Somewhere here on Slashdot there was a story about it a few days ago. Could someone dig it up? It has to be announced loud and clear that open FORMATS, not open sources, must be considered - at least it'll silence these "procompetition" groups.
    • ... the Initiative for Software Choice is lobbying to basically remove South Australia's choice to use Open Source Software from consideration and more or less force them into using closed source software.

      You are understanding this right, and yes, well, when the ISC promote 'choice', they mean that you are supposed to choose THEM.

      You are absolutely right about misleading names - but that's the way that PR works. The AMA wouldn't have nearly the same amount of public respect if it was called the 'Associa
    • Er, no. RTFL. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jazman (9111)
      From DearSouthAustraliaRann.pdf:

      The ISC strongly supports the development and adoption of all kinds of software â" OSS, hybrid and proprietary. All models have a place in the highly competitive software market. Only in this manner, through vibrant and open competition, does the whole of the market thrive, and consumers â" both public and private â" reap tremendous benefits.

      Standing in stark contrast to open competition are state-mandated software preferences. These âoepreferenceâ
      • Re:Er, no. RTFL. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Tet (2721)
        Not everyone is a wannabe Linux hacker; those with business goals rather than tech goals need to make business decisions, not tech decisions.

        True enough. But you're overlooking the fact that government bodies never have to make business decisions. They have to make public interest decisions, and the public interest is not best served by throwing public money away on closed soruce software. I agree with another poster, though, that mandating open source isn't necessarily the answer (although in many cases,

      • The real question is if governement agencies should be allowed to use expensive licensed software for which there is a viable alternative in the OS/FS community (read without paying required license fees). I think we have since long passed the time that we should believe that e.g running GNU [gnu.org]/Linux [kernel.org] in combination with OOo [openoffice.org] is at least as expensive as well know commercial products and can dismiss these statements as FUD [whatis.com].

        I for one think they should not buy those products, though it is not any better [microsoft.com] where I li
      • Cost of OSS is not zero, and the cost of the specialist Linux admin you have to hire needs to be considered against the easier to use Windows box that just about anyone can use...

        Every study ever done on the topic has shown that 1 *nix administrator is able to administer more systems than 1 Windows admin and even though you might pay more for each administrator, you employ fewer people (with resultant savings in superannuation, holiday pay etc). Add to this that government contracts tend to deal with a lo
    • So, basically if I'm understanding this right, and correct me if I'm wrong, the Initiative for Software Choice is lobbying to basically remove South Australia's choice to use Open Source Software from consideration and more or less force them into using closed source software. Kind of ironic.

      Hardly unique though. They'd fit in well with supposedly anti-sexism lobby groups which are actually sexist, racist lobbying groups which claim to be racist. Not forgetting lobby groups which represent an atypical pos
    • Propaganda is your most important tool. Frame the argument in your terms and the enemy fights your battle, on your terms.

      Do you think DRM would fly if it was Digital Restrictions Management and not Digital Rights Management? There are countless other examples of this. My "terrorist" is your "freedom fighter". "Palladium" and not "Poisoned Hardware", "Digital Millenium Copyright Act" not "Dumb Companies Moneymaking Authority".

      No media or Joe Public is going to realise true nature of self-interest unless po
    • Not the way I read the article. They claim that the propsed law requires the use of Open Source and locks out Closed Source. Their letter, with which I broadly agree, wants to maintain competition. As well as allowing S Aus to make the best choice, competition is a good thing for Open Source. OS should, and will eventually, win on its merits, not on any legislated advantage. The only thing any legislator needs to do is level the playing field - block Microsoft FUD, sponsor real cost-of-ownership studies.
  • Infernal lobbyists (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mhifoe (681645) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:18AM (#6220860)
    "The ISC believes that if this 'preference' legislation were to be enacted it would severely limit software choices for South Australiaâ(TM)s government, harming not only its citizens, but also South Australiaâ(TM)s vibrant information and communications technology (ICT) industry."

    Paraphrasing:
    This bill will reduce the amount of money being payed to the Microsoft Corporation. They indirectly pay my salary so please don't do it.

    I would urge anyone who hasn't done so to read the bill in question. It's a marvelous piece of plain speech quite unlike the normal utterings of a politician.
  • *Sigh* (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ChibiTaryn (646855)
    This wouldn't be the first time the State Government has done something silly. While I think that Open Source stuff doesn't get noticed much as far as State Supply goes, I don't think this is the right way to go about getting it noticed/used either.
  • In business as in democracy in these times, money will buy you a louder voice. Bills like these simply give a voice to the notion that you can use some of this software for free, and a lot of it is actually pretty good. IBM won't help here, because they simply want to use Linux as a way to charge you an arm and a leg for all of their other services. The language of choice is being twisted to limit the real choices of consumers and governments.
  • Few Things (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Cluestick Enforcer (682056) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:47AM (#6220930)
    In the Bill itself, its seems to be addressing "Mr President". Im unsure of whom this bill is being proposed too, but if its a Parliament bill, wouldn't it be addressed to Mr Speaker or Mr Premier?

    Secondly, this ISC mob seem to be pro choice, as long as that choice is from a commercial product. From the article -

    "...look to the competitive software market to acquire the best solution for a given need."

    From their members [softwarechoice.org] page, i can see a few more noticeable companies, including Microsoft, yet I cannot identify any open-source companies. Not too much "choice" there, i think.
  • by HardcoreGamer (672845) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:48AM (#6220935)
    Part of the implied social contract of any representative government is to adopt policies and legislation that are in the public interest.

    It is in the public interest for high-quality, low-cost or no-cost open source software to exist and be available to all levels of society.

    It is also in the public interest for their governments to be run in a cost-effective manner. Unless there is a specific technical requirement that open source software cannot meet, there is no substantive reason why OSS should not be considered and adopted in the government sector. This doesn't even address the issue of locking a government into a proprietary solution.

    Contrary to the lobbyists, the bill doesn't prevent proprietary solutions from being used. It merely states a preference for OSS as a guiding principle in the decision-making process for procurement "wherever practicable."

    This would foster more competition (not less) and hopefully result in higher-quality software on all fronts.

    This sort of enlightened legislation definitely falls under the category of a Public Good.
  • by StarvingHick (682127) <notawake&uncompiled,com> on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:49AM (#6220937)
    "A public authority must, in making a decision about the procurement of computer software for its operations, have regard to the principle that, wherever practicable, a public authority should use open source software in preference to proprietary software."

    So basically, what they're saying is that the government should, instead of using software that is generally low or no cost and can be modified to fit the government's unique needs, that they should use more costly proprietary software that can't be modified, so that they have to conform to whatever the program can do instead of editing the program to create more features, resulting in inefficiency.
    I wonder what the Australian taxpayers would have to say about that?
    Also, this bill in no way forces the authorities to use OSS if there are no OSS solutions with adequate features, so either the ISC create software that's better than OSS, or they don't get picked. Sounds fair to me.
  • The Mole (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Viper233 (132365) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:57AM (#6220954) Homepage

    As someone who's just started meddling in the NSW (Australia)public service (local government) after several years in private IT sector, I see the call for open source in the best interest of our clients, i.e the public.

    People are becoming alot more concerned with how public money is being spent. Government not only has the opportunity to save money, but also can start giving back to the public by contributing, and most importantly being seen to be contributing, to opensource software which tax payers can then use for themselves.

    Although I'm not strictly in an IT position, I am known as one of the IT guys, who can unlock peoples accounts when they are unable to enter their l/p properly after 3 goes.

    Unfortunately, it seems, the IT professionals who take up positions in local government come from the bottom of the IT barrel (including myself), often stepping over from other positions and taking up the 'IT person' status, and therefore lack an understanding of possibilities that open source software hold, and have been brought about already by private businesses. With a couple of years working for a small town ISP, looking after half a dozen Linux servers which ran the business, I have developed a opensource/linux background. (Oh, and of course.... constant reading of slashd^H^H^H^H^H^H^ linux Howto's)

    Of the several people I have mentioned opensource, prominantly linux, software to, they have been baffled. Downloading the latest win32 OpenOffice is a great first step. Especially with the Export to pdf button.

    I will be pushing opensource initiatives, taking on the burden of being the opensource mole, with already open office looking to replace our current proprietry office suite, linux on our main file/backup server, two NT2000 servers look to be replaced by a single linux server, and an old server resurected into a internet gateway. Hey... who thinks I can turn this into a reality TV show??? can't be any worse then....

  • by samj (115984) *
    It would appear to me that the ISC is grossly misrepresenting their membership base by stating that 'together the ISC and CompTIA have 110 corporate and individual members in Australia'. I would suggest that a vast majority of those are individuals ' looking for the tools to develop [their] career[s] [comptia.org]'. I would go so far as to say that without surveying their membership base, to say that members of the parent organisation are aligned with the values of its subsidiary is misleading, and if I were a CompTIA mem
  • by flacco (324089) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:59AM (#6220958)
    The ISC, by its own definition, is a "global coalition of large and small companies committed to advancing the concept that multiple competing software markets should be allowed to develop and flourish unimpeded by government preference or mandate."

    Hear, hear! These large and small companies should ALL be permitted to submit their Free / open source software to governments for consideration, on a level playing field.

    Oh, what's that you say? Your company doesn't write Free / open source software? Well, I guess this isn't your market then, now is it?

    "The software must be F/OSS" is discriminatory against proprietary software vendors in the same way that "the software cannot be a refrigerator" is discriminatory against Frigidaire.

    If the proprietary vendors want to compete for an open source project, they're more than welcome. Hell, if Frigidaire wants to get into the F/OSS software business, they're more than welcome to submit bids too.

  • by awol (98751) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @06:08AM (#6220985) Journal
    South Australia has a history of legal innovation. Indeed, beyond the issues of suffrage for which they are well known, the system of land registration known as Torrens Title has been exported widely. One of the most interesting aspects of this is the legal definition of open source that has been provided in the Act. I am sure that JMS would be disappointed with the phrase "open source" being the legally enshrined thing for which the government departments must make consideration. I too would prefer to find "Free Software" as the phrase, even "Software Libre", but the name concerns me little.

    My question to the reading populace is are we happy with the definition? It is always difficult to get such things right and ammendments can always be made to refine things, but is the definition as it stands even adequate? I think it is adequate, in fact I would go further and think that as a generic description it is actually very good.
  • SA (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jtsoong (307257)
    I work in SA Government.

    And where we work, basically, unofficial policy, if it doesn't come with source, don't use it.
  • Australian Citizen? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by samj (115984) * <samj@samj.net> on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @06:11AM (#6221002) Homepage
    Then why are you reading this and not writing a letter yourself sharing your views on the situation. I am sure that the views of Australian citizens will weigh in more than those of a potentially biased American based organisation backed by a company who will be directly adversely affected by the passing of this bill.

    It is obvious that there are plenty of reasons to use FOSS in a government environment. If there is not a FOSS product for a given task (high end databases, specialised reporting applications, etc.) then the best product may indeed be closed source. If two products are similar in features/price then FOSS should prevail. The government still gets software which meets their needs, often significantly cheaper (especially in the long run), and the taxpayer benefits at the expense of proprietary software vendor(s) who are often (but not necessarily always) charging a ridiculous amount of money for an inferior product.
  • Usage vs Development (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lord Bitman (95493) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @06:13AM (#6221007) Homepage
    I, speaking as a human, dont give a flying fuck what license a government agency is under for using software. If you disagree, you're a fucking moron.
    The problem is when they need software to be developed for them. Then it should be open-source- What the people pay for, the people should get.

    How does this work? Government agency B wants to use some software, so they buy it. Then they want something new developed for it, so they go to the software company that makes it, give them money, and say "make it."
    All code written on the dime of the government is released into the open. It doesnt matter if it doesnt work by itself, because not the whole program was created by the government. What the people pay for, the people should get- it's unfair to expect more.

    All other things I would mention are covered fully IN THE FUCKING ARTICLE.
    • Wouldn't it be nice if that logic had broader coverage?

      The government buys copies of Windows, so the people get those copies, since they actually paid for them.
  • 1980 Called, and they want their Troll Back!
  • by nizo (81281) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @06:14AM (#6221013) Homepage Journal
    Luckily the software that tallies the votes is closed source, so the outcome should be the way the ISC wants anyway.
  • Choice (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ajs318 (655362) <sd_resp2@NOspAm.earthshod.co.uk> on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @06:15AM (#6221016)
    An act of parliament that mandates public bodies {who pays their wages again?} to consider all the options before making a purchase is hardly a Bad Thing. The only convincing arguments against it are:
    1. The choice is so vast that more resources would be expended on the act of choosing than on the product chosen
    2. You are the present supplier of a product which is likely to be deemed inferior by the criteria applied for judgement.
    If (1), this says: the market is saturated, all software is much of a one-ness, there is nothing to choose between it and you may as well pick the one with the prettiest box. If (2), this says: software suppliers -- or the beneficiaries of, or apologists for, their corruption and selfishness -- are influencing governments.

    What does the empirical evidence suggest?
  • by RedPhoenix (124662) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @06:31AM (#6221051)
    Sometimes affirmitive action policies are considered neccessary in order to force employers to think outside the box, and consider employees that may not be in the normal "zone of comfort" for the employer in question. Once the bar is raised, and the targetted group is "inside the zone of comfort" once more, the policies could potentially be considered a success.

    In order to communicate the SA legislation effectively to other legislators, it shouldn't really be considered a 'statement of preference'.. perhaps it should be referred to as a "software affirmitive action policy".

    Let's just take a few lines from the ISC letter, liberally changing "software" references to "people with green eyes" (nods to William Peters classic blue-eyes brown-eyes psychological study). Lets further pretend that green-eyed people are considered to be a "lower caste" by most members of society, and though just as capable as brown, and blue eyed people, are generally not considered equal by employers.

    On behalf of the Initiative for eye-colour choice, I write to express our concerns regarding the proposed employment bill, which gives undue preference to people with green eyes, over people with other coloured eyes. The IEC believes that if this "preference" legislation were to be enacted, it would severely limit employment opportunities for South Australia's government, harming not only its citizens, but also South Australia's vibrant government employment sector.

    The IEC is a global association overwhelmingly made up of, and supported by, blue and brown eyed people, with over 15,000 members in 89 countries. The IEC strongly supports equal opportunity for people with blue, brown and green eyes, and believe that "preference" policies may not select the most meritorious potential employee in any one project, at the expense of providing equal employment opportunities to green-eyed people.


    Sometimes, a government needs to put the good of the many, over the good of the few; and software preference legislation has the potential to level the playing field a little for open source tools, and open-source-related services, in the mind of government project managers.

    As a developer of BOTH commercial and open source software, I think there is certainly scope for affirmitive action in software choice.

    Red.
    • As a developer of BOTH commercial and open source software, I think there is certainly scope for affirmitive action in software choice.

      I disagree, and I disagree with the concept of government 'preferring' one type of software over another.

      The government should define the requirements for software framed around it's actual needs:

      price point

      features

      outsourced support (if necessary)

      open file formats

      source code requirements

      ...and then compare all comers. If the government really really needs

  • The Institute for Software Choice is saying that Governments and other organisations select the best tool for any particular job rather than being essentially biased towards Open Source.

    Under this reasoning, Open Source would have several major points in its favour - mainly:

    • Open source code to adapt and modify
    • Open file formats
    • Free (as in beer) cost when purchased
    • Less restrictive licencing for republishing
    • Easy to maintain through open code even after the file format becomes "old"

    Given all tho

  • Other footed shoe (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Gilmoure (18428) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @06:48AM (#6221089) Journal
    When was the last time you heard "this" group go on about how a spec for MS Word should be opened up to include other software?
  • by cordsie (565171) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @07:09AM (#6221135)
    Original Title:

    Lobbyists Urge South Australia To Drop Open Source Bill

    After Slashdot discussion:

    Open Source Lobbyists Urge South Australia To Drop Bill

  • Be Pro-Active (Score:3, Informative)

    by gnuguru (301000) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @07:18AM (#6221154) Journal
    The Premiers website

    http://www.sa.alp.org.au/people/people.html?seat =R amsay

    The Premiers email address.

    mailto:ramsay@parliament.sa.gov.au

    Mod this up quicksmart ;)
  • by stud9920 (236753) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @07:19AM (#6221155)
    Someone must be cybersquatting slashdot.org . How else could you explain "lobbyists" was not written as superlative "lobbiest" ?


  • To me, open source software will always be, first and foremost, 'a vast opportunity for South Australia'.

  • How do geeks lobby? (Score:3, Informative)

    by thogard (43403) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @07:49AM (#6221232) Homepage
    Anyone know how to do our lobbying?

    Is there anyway we could get a good speaker that is sort of local to go talk to some of the more undecided politicians? Maybe Rusty or Tridge? These two bring money into Australia and some of that can be directly tracked to South Australia.

    LinuxSA [linuxsa.org.au] has a bit more on the propsed law.

    This law will get passed if the local goverment understands that supporting open souce does being in people all over the world through things like linux.conf.au [linux.org.au].
  • by pointwood (14018) <jramskov@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @08:00AM (#6221274) Homepage

    I would rather have a law that made open standards a requirement. Exactly as Bruce Perens says with his Sincere Choice initiative [sincerechoice.org] as a response to "The Initiative for Software Choice".

    • I second that, wholeheartedly!

      The 'Sincere Choice' principle is exactly what will serve Open Source software best in the long run. Not by making use of OS mandatory in government institutions etc., but by providing a level playing field - open standards, competetion by merit between OS and proprietary software.

      z
  • You should lobby too (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gregluck (668236) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @08:51AM (#6221543)
    You can lobby the premier directly through this web-based email form [sa.gov.au] I met with Richard Alston, the Federal Australian Minister for Technology a few years ago at an awards ceremony and spent a half hour with him explaining open source and the famous role some Australians play in it (e.g. Andrew Morton - kernel, Paul 'Rusty' Russell iptables, Andrew 'tridg' Tridgell - Samba, rsync ...) and found he was genuinely interested. He asked for some submissions which I sent to him. You are never sure of a result, however the Federal Government recently issued a pro open source policy, so at least I think I did no harm. So, you can probably help by offering your support, particularly any South Australians out there.
  • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @09:45AM (#6221997)
    From the proposed law:
    Principle applying to the procurement of computer software 17A.
    (1) A public authority must, in making a decision about the procurement of computer software for its operations, have regard to the principle that, wherever practicable, a public authority should use open source software in preference to proprietary software.


    Personally, I think that is almost as bad as giving preference to a proprietary solution.

    Let each tool stand on its own merits.
  • by gobbo (567674) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (etirwerw)> on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @10:10AM (#6222204) Journal
    The whole point of affirmative action [should be] a way to compensate for embedded preferences that are so ingrained that they aren't obvious to people making decisions using them. From this point of view, people need encouragement to consider alternatives from the mainstream monopoly approach, and in the interests of fairness a shove in an alternative direction is needed.

    OK, yeah, such systems are often as boneheaded as the problem they purport to solve. But this is the way governments wield power, by fiat. So recommending a marginal product over mainstream products that have expensive representation of their interests is an equalizing move.

    I don't approve of nation-states in general, but I do understand why they resort to these options.

  • by stanwirth (621074) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:05PM (#6226312)

    Time and time again, we've seen M$ offer special deals to large organisations that "decide" to use OSS by decree -- governments, universities, companies. (Could this be the motivation for issuing these decrees on the basis of price alone in the first place?)

    We've also seen M$ or their proxies (e.g. SCO) take steps to punish organisations that stick with their OSS decisions. The threat implicit in the "ISC"'s choice (and shame on them for appropriating the good name of the real ISC [isc.org]) is that the first hint of any problem with OSS, and they'll raise a ruckus in the media and try to discredit the public officials who did not choose " the best " software for the job, but made an "ideological" choice.

    The only argument that can stand up to this onslaught is that data formats need to be open, so that the owners of the data can maintain their ownership. This argument has been made brilliantly in other contributions to this discussion. We might add to that: the owners of the data need to be able to see the source code of the programmes and operating systems (particularly the network components) which manipulate and communicate those data in order to avoid theft, misuse and misappropriation of those data.

    Australia and New Zealand have exceptionally strong privacy laws -- and these laws are enforced. People, government bodies, and even large corporations with deep pockets take these laws very seriously, even though Echelon seems to be exempt ( NB: This is a different discussion.). One way that South Australia could help itself stick by its decision to use OSS in the face of these lobbyists would be to refer to its own privacy legislation as the prime driver for OSS, rather than price alone.

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