[Linux-aus] Fwd: FYI & Comment - Latest version of Democrat Open Source Bill

Con Zymaris conz at cyber.com.au
Thu Sep 18 11:40:02 UTC 2003

On Wed, Sep 17, 2003 at 03:35:47PM +1000, Arjen Lentz wrote:
> Hi Leon,
> On Mon, 2003-09-15 at 00:39, Leon Brooks wrote:
> > From: "Johnstone, Andy"
> > 
> > [...]
> > We have taken on board suggestions about the definition of open source
> > software and included reference to open standards.

we should not confuse Open Source and Open Standards in the minds of the
non-techs. They are often symbiotically linked and one often engenders
the other, but they don't everlap conceptually.

> I wonder if it may be possible to get the term "open source" completely
> removed, and purely go for terms like:
>  - "open standards" (already noted in the amendment)
>  - "open file formats" (specific mention)
>  - "future-proof investment" (in many years time, can the customer still
> access today's documents, or will buying this software now create a
> problem later?)
>  - "security audited by independent third parties"
>  - "prevent vendor lock-in"
> ... things like that.
> Con can probably provide much nicer terminology/phrasing (go for it
> Con!), but I'm sure you get the idea.

There are two viable prongs to this. 

One is the 'totally neutral' level playing field approach, whereby you
don't mention FOSS at all.

Here's what we came up with:

* That governments should mandate the use of open, documented and 
inter-operable file formats and data communication protocols, rather than 
specific products or suppliers.

* That it is in government departments' best interests to choose 
technologies which have implementations from more than one source, 
boosting the department's tactical leverage and hedging against any 
single supplier gaining lock-in and price gouging mechanisms.  Therefore 
this should be a formal requirement in departmental requisition policies.

* Preference should be given to technologies for which there is is a case 
to be made that local industry can benefit, and that imports can be 
replaced, helping improve our woeful balance of trade in ICT.

(source: http://www.osv.org.au/index.cgi?tid=62)

The advantages of this approach are:

* non party political and will garner widespread support across the 
political spectrum.

* this combination of purchasing policies is adopted, Free and Open
Source Software such as Linux will be the best route to fulfilling these
requirements, but that all technologies can compete openly and fairly.

The other approach, which I have no problems with if it can be made to 
stick in purchase policy terms, leads to something more akin to 
Gilfillans current document: Recommendation is made that FOSS should be 
strongly considered first, and if it can't deliver the required result, 
then proprietary solutions should be countenanced.

I do believe that some affirmative action is not a bad thing, as the
entrenched players would otherwise be immovable. Most governments already
have purchasing policies which not only favour entrenched vendors, they
_mandate_ these vendors' products.

It is a huge uphill battle for Open Source to compete with this status
quo arrangement. For instance, I will provide you with the purchasing
policies of the Victorian state government.
Please read these documents and ensure for yourself that the present
situation is grossly unfair and already limits choice.
You will also note that neither Microsoft, CompTIA nor ISC raised a
whisper in response to these unfair purchasing policies. Therefore, these
organisations do not want fairness or a level playing field at all. They
want to maintain the status quo whereby Microsoft owns the whole
government sector and can charge exhorbitant rates for otherwise
commodity platforms and office tools.

Part of what Gilfillan et al. are trying to do, is to force FOSS onto the
discussion table. His actions have had immense repercussions in the IT
media. The tabled act may not succeed, but it's bought FOSS to the hearts
and minds of most public servants dealing with IT purchasing a year or
two earlier than otherwise would have happened.

I had a chance 3 weeks ago to listen to a government policy guy talk
about all this. He said that government buyers do not need to be
co-erced into providing a level purchasing playing field; they already do
so! His next sentence essentially said "and we mandate Microsoft
everywhere." I'm still biting my tongue. But not for too much longer...

Con Zymaris <conz at cyber.com.au> Level 4, 10 Queen St, Melbourne 03 9621 2377 
Cybersource: Unix/Linux, TCP/IP and Web App. Development  www.cyber.com.au

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