Recently builderau ran an article about Australian companies lack of contribution to open source software. I hate to agree, but overall I believe it is the truth.

Over the years I have worked at/with a number of firms (some big, some small) and many have used some free software / open source somewhere. Most of it is in development tools and server applications, hidden away from end users. So the fact the web server is Apache doesn’t enter anyone’s conversations outside the developers / tech staff. Outside these staff and possibly their immediate managers, no one else is likely to know FOSS applications and tools have invaded the company. The manager 2+ levels up probably thinks PHP is from Microsoft or IBM, but they got a good deal on price. They are only using it for the cost reason.

This leads to the situation of companies not contributing back to the FOSS world, as these managers believe once the software is paid for ($0 is a price), then it is not their problem. There is no perceived benefit of sharing knowledge, skills and expensive staff time, that may have payback in the future. This years budget is the priority, vendor lock in, support and maintenance fees down the track are next years problem.

Government has also played a part overseas, and there have been rumblings from some Australian governments about the benefits of FOSS. OpenSource WA looks interesting, but otherwise it seems to be all talk without real understanding. From opensource NSW the document about Interoperability using open standards is in word format, and the site contents never seem to be updated. I know for a fact there are people in the organisation who are passionate about their goals, but they are surrounded with apathy.