debate about Free software for the ACT Government

Doug Palmer doug at
Tue Apr 23 21:43:04 EST 2002

On 2002.04.23 20:44 Richard Cottrill wrote:
> It sounds like it could be a great idea. If the government were to take
> some
> of the cash it spends on proprietary, closed, for-cost software, and
> spend
> it on development/support for free software it uses then Canberra wins in
> many ways - like working towards a critical mass of
> development/developers
> that is necessary for the IT enterprises it keeps bleating about.

Just to put my skeptics hat on for a moment. Has anybody tried to do a 
proper calculation of total cost of ownership to show that there actually 
would be savings from moving across to free software? (Yes, yes, I know 
that Microsoft makes this claim. But as far as I can see this is just PR 
flack work. About as convincing as the claims from free software advocates 
that no license fee == savings.)

Just to sketch out the factors that might have to be considered, and I'm 
sure others can add to this:

License fees.
Cost of training.
Help desk support, plus the cost of hiring semi-competent people.
Benefit of being able to make proficiency in something part of the job 
Benefit of providing staff with something they percieve as improving their 
employment marketability.
Cost of Outlook viruses. :-)
Cost of installation.
Cost of hardware.
Cost of outages.
Administration cost. This would include such anything from the ability to 
remotely administer a network to the cost/benefit of being able to isolate 
and fix a problem as opposed to just re-installing
Programmer's wage rates for vertical application software.
Reliability of application software (The Linux kernel may be solid as a 
rock, but most application software on both platforms crashes 
distressingly often.)

And so on ...

What would be interesting would be if there was a way of actually 
calculating some of this out for various scenarios. With a bit of luck, a 
reasonably disinterested party has already done this.

Doug Palmer   doug at

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