Open source sneaks in SA govt back door

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The South Australian Democrats may have failed so far in their campaign to have legislation passed promoting open source software, but open source products are slowly infiltrating the government nonetheless.

In his opening speech at the Linux and Open Source in Government Conference in Adelaide on Monday, SA Democrats deputy party leader Ian Gilfillan revealed that the SA government procurement department had begun assessing Open Office for its suitability for use by government employees.

Gilfillan has also installed a demonstration Linux machine in his parliamentary office -- though he has yet to be given permission to connect it to the main parliamentary network.

He has twice presented legislation to the South Australian Parliament which would make open source software the preferred choice, provided it has the same overall value for money as commercial alternatives. While the legislation has been rejected on both occasions, it was used as the model for a similar bill passed in the ACT last year.

"I will continue with my efforts to get the government to embrace open source," Gilfillan said. One option would be to present a revised bill when Parliament resumes on 18 February. However, with the Rann government recently hinting that it might work to give open source a stronger status in procurement guidelines, behind-the-scenes negotiations may ultimately prove more important.

"I don't have any regrets about the first bill. It did fail, but it also escalated the debate," said Gilfillan. "This is only part of an ongoing campaign to convince the rather stubborn government of the potential of open source."

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