Open standards key for SA govt – minister

By   |  July 28, 2008

Open source software and open standards were high on the agenda at the opening of the GovTech 2008 conference in Durban this morning.

During her keynote address, minister of public service and administration Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi highlighted open source software and open standards as key components of efficient IT in government.

Moleketi, known for her support of open source software, said that government IT providers must look at open standards. She said that it was important to nurture a system that “ensures open minds; minds willing to share and challenge.”

Moleketi also said that open source and open standards are about “interoperability. We must ensure that government’s ability to deliver tomorrow is guaranteed,” she said.

Open standards, not open source

Interestingly, however, while open source software has been strongly advocated by the South African government, the companies providing technology to government favour open standards over open source software.

In a poll following the minister’s speech more than 72% of GovTech delegates said that government’s primary focus should be on open standards rather than open source software.

Open standards are favoured by most industry players because they are viewed as being less prescriptive than open source software which is very often associated with operating systems such as Linux.

Open standards and open source are not, however, exclusive. Desktop software such as OpenOffice ia both open source – its underlying code is available to everyone – as well as built on open standards such as Open Document Format and PDF.

In a related poll a majority of delegates, most of which are from government, said that their organisation did not yet have a strategy in place to implement open source or open standards.

GovTech is a four-day conference hosted by the State Information Technology Agency (Sita).

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