The launch of the Open Technology Foundation (OTF) in Canberra today drew a warm, enthusiastic group of major government agencies and companies.
The foundation styled itself as the first peak body in Australian and New Zealand to promote open technologies in the public sector.
It provided a multi-jurisdictional focal point for governments to share information and resources and conduct joint research into the evaluation and adoption of open technology, related standards and methods.
Canberra Senator Kate Lundy described the OTF as “a coming of age of a sector of our industry that is capturing all the good work that is open source tools and methodologies".
"This is a necessary transition and a way in which we can provide an incredible resource to people across the public and private sector," she said.
The OTF was years in the making. Coordinators initially planned to launch the foundation in June this year, but decided to hold back until all pieces were in place.
Its first chair, Dr Terry Cutler said today that the time was ripe for a launch.
“Everybody [in Canberra] got it. They said it was a fabulous initiative. It almost sells itself," he said.
"I grew up in telecommunications and one of the fundamental principles of this field is 'any to any' connectivity. That’s what we are talking about here."
Although AGIMO declined to join the interim Board last year, the OTF had strong support from heavy hitters at Federal State and within the industry, including Defence and the Bureau of Meteorology.
The general manager of the OTF, Stephen Schmid, said the foundation had "strong industry backing".
“IBM, HP, Redhat and Google ... have expressed their support and we look forward to working with all levels of the ICT industry on programs that will help us achieve our vision," he said.
“Offices from all mainland state governments and territories and the New Zealand Government pledged ongoing involvement makes the OTF a truly trans-tasman initiative” Schmid said.
OTF represented some three years of work by South Australian Government CIO Alan Mills and had international links with Carnegie Mellon University.
“When I got the job of the Government CIO, we started looking at some of the problems we had, lack of re-use of solutions in Government was one – particularly between states," Mills said.
"There were systemic problems for open source that made it struggle to be adopted in Government."
Google Australia’s engineering director Alan Noble saw the OTF as an important opportunity for government to “change its mindset” about open solutions and tools.
“Today a lot of government procurement decision-makers they are not necessarily putting open source technologies on the table," he said, despite a Federal policy that required agencies to consider open source software in their procurement process from March this year.
"[Open source] should be at least on the table," Noble said. "It’s not necessarily the right choice every time but it has to be considered.
"That’s the big opportunity here to change the mindset of Governments as a serious contender,” he said.
OTF manager Schmid said its first priority was to establish a membership structure. This might involve separate tiers of membership for government agencies, academics and industry members.
An online portal that Schmid hoped to introduced in about a month would provide members with secure areas through which they could share and access information from others in their tier.
“There is significant interest through industry and academia and generally the technology community to be involved," he said.
He defended AGIMO's decision not to join the board, noting that the OTF was "that step past policy".
“OTF is a support mechanism. AGIMO have done a great job in getting open technologies on the policy radar. We are there to complement that now with business and federal departments.”
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Issue: 343 | October 2015