[clug] AEC denies FOI request to source code of 'EasyCount' for counting Senate votes.

steve jenkin sjenkin at canb.auug.org.au
Fri Jul 11 18:04:20 MDT 2014

On 8 Jul 2014, at 3:56 pm, rdenholm at pcug.org.au wrote:

> I suggest a more likely cause is most government bureaucracies do not yet
> understand the security through obscurity is not secure.  Very hard to
> break cultural mores especially as last 20+ years of governments have
> increased their desire for secret anythings as opposed to demanding all
> citizens have no privacy.
> Roger the cynic

I always found Public Service I.T. cultures that were a mix of:

 - “Not Done Here” (or “It’s All Too Hard”) for releasing useful code as Open Source, and
 - “we could sell that” (that’s Big Brownie Points for the Head Honcho)

Although there are “Open Source” directives (on use of, not release) and for unclassified written Documents, there’s a formal _default_ position of “Creative Commons BY” [Attribution?] there is no policy document that promotes the active identification and sharing or release of useful, innovative source, procedures or processes.

The Intellectual Property Manual, for me, comes from a premise of “we keep stuff to ourselves”. It specifically has a section on Software Copyright and its Commercialisation or Licensing. I can’t recall anything in it on the identification, release and support of Open Source.


I can back this assertion with an observation on the absence of software sharing, a reflection of the “Silo” mentality and Balkanisation across Agencies, even with them:

   Where’s the Australian Government Shared Software Repository for code, designs, scripts & documentation/tutorials?

I cannot believe that across all Agencies there isn't any common code, systems, processes or shareable tutorials & documents like checklists. I cannot believe with the large numbers of Windows Desktops and focus on Microsoft “Productivity” software, there are hundreds or thousands of reusable admin scripts, templates, databases and Visual Basic scripts. There’d be more for Admin staff for their daily tasks.

Under the FMAA, administered by Dept of Finance, Agency heads have an _obligation_ to spend taxpayers money “effectively and efficiently” (and 2 other buzzwords). I can’t see how keeping private code & reusable materials fulfils this obligation.

It isn’t that there isn’t already formal cross-agency communication, discussion and standards:

"Chief Information Officers Committee” [all the “Major” Agencies & Depts]

And the “CIO Forum” for the rest:

I saw a lot of fine people produce large amounts of very good code, with large chunks of it potentially reusable (but by definition, not for single-installation products like Model 204). I also saw big systems junked with nothing documented or kept.

I never saw, or heard of, any attempts to promote or create any mechanisms to promote, allow or encourage sharing or work across Agencies, or even within them. Everywhere seems to be a Silo.

Those times I did attempt to get my work released as Open Source, I was thwarted.

There has been a major shift in recent years, it’s not software but “Open Data” backed up by the on-coming “GovHack”.

The first Government computers were installed and being used for essential back-office operations well before 1960, with their rapid uptake causing a huge, unmet, demand for Programmers resulting in a combined training programme.
Roger Clarke has the  "Programmer in Training” (PIT) scheme, run by Canberra College of Advanced Education (CCAE), starting in 1963. [Don’t know where in Melbourne or Sydney.]

I think the AEC response & position is deeper than “Security through Obscurity”.

Steve Jenkin, IT Systems and Design 
0412 786 915 (+61 412 786 915)
PO Box 48, Kippax ACT 2615, AUSTRALIA

mailto:sjenkin at canb.auug.org.au http://members.tip.net.au/~sjenkin

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