Final report for “Inquiry into Improving Access to Victorian Public Sector Information and Data” released

The Victorian Government has been running an inquiry into access to the data that it generates, and they’ve finally tabled their report (PDF). I’ve only had a chance for a quick scan of it so far but its three main recommendations are as follows.

Firstly – this info should be made available and it should be cheap (ideally free!):

The Committee has proposed three key recommendations for access to and re-use of Government information. First, the Committee recommends that the Victorian Government develop an Information Management Framework for the purpose of facilitating access to and re-use of Victorian Government information by government, citizens and businesses. The default position of the framework should be that all PSI produced by Victorian Government departments from now on be made available at no or marginal cost.

Secondly – they should use Creative Commons licensing wherever possible!

The second key recommendation of the Committee is that the Victorian Government make use of the Creative Commons licensing model for the release of PSI. The Committee was told Creative Commons licences can be appropriately used for up to 85 per cent of government information and data, providing a simple to understand and widely used system for the re-use of PSI. Remaining Victorian Government PSI should either not be released, or released under licences tailored specifically for restricted materials.

Thirdly – and least excitingly – there should be a portal for this info..

The Committee’s third key recommendation is that the Victorian Government establish an on-line directory, where the public can search for and obtain information about PSI held by the Victorian Government. Depending on the access conditions Government has attached to specific PSI, people will be able to download information and data directly, or make contact with people in the Victorian Government to discuss access conditions.

They also have a recommendation and finding relating to state government purchasing of software related to open source:

The Committee also considers the use of open source software (OSS) within and by the Victorian Government. One of the Committee’s recommendations is that the Government ensure tendering for software is neither licence specific nor has proprietary software-specific requirements, and that it meet the given objectives of Government.

Finding 23: There is sufficient evidence of cost-competitiveness between open source software and proprietary software for government to carefully consider both options during software procurement and development.

They also consider the licensing of software developed by the government:

As noted in section below, current Victorian Government policy is to allocate IP rights in software produced for it to the software developer, with certain restrictions to ensure the Government’s interests are protected. This means that there is nothing to restrict people who develop software for the government from subsequently releasing it as OSS.

Unfortunately it looks like MS Word stuffed up their references and headings for them – what irony! There is no section in the PDF, it’s probably referring to section 10.3.3, which is followed by section 10.3.4 which in turn is followed by – er ?

Even more interesting is when they talk about file formats:

Recommendation 42: That the Victorian Government require, as part of its whole-of-government ICT Procurement Policy, that software procured by the Government be capable of saving files in open standard formats, and that wherever possible, the software be configured to save in open standard formats by default.

There’s heaps more there, but I’ve run out of time to read it tonight! 🙂

(Found via OpenAustralia on Twitter)

What Price Ideology ? – Mbeki, AIDS and the lost ARV treatment

Reading the New Scientist article on AIDS Deniers (which reminded me a lot of the Global Warming denial farce with its reliance on obsolete results, junk science and people who won’t let facts get in the way of a good conspiracy theory) I was very disturbed read about an assessment on the number of extra deaths in South Africa caused by the policies of its ex-president, Thabo Mbeki. Mbeki did his best to block the use of ART’s in the treatment of AIDS, despite all the evidence that they were the best treatment. The number of extra deaths due to this is simply staggering, around a third of a million lives lost due to the false ideology that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS. 🙁

The journal article referenced for those numbers is called “Estimating the Lost Benefits of Antiretroviral Drug Use in South Africa” and is published at the end of last year in Volume 49 – Issue 4 of the JAIDS Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes. The abstract for the paper puts the issue like this:

South Africa is one of the countries most severely affected by HIV/AIDS. At the peak of the epidemic, the government, going against consensus scientific opinion, argued that HIV was not the cause of AIDS and that antiretroviral (ARV) drugs were not useful for patients and declined to accept freely donated nevirapine and grants from the Global Fund.

The cost was truly devastating:

Using modeling, we compared the number of persons who received ARVs for treatment and prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission between 2000 and 2005 with an alternative of what was reasonably feasible in the country during that period. More than 330,000 lives or approximately 2.2 million person-years were lost because a feasible and timely ARV treatment program was not implemented in South Africa. Thirty-five thousand babies were born with HIV, resulting in 1.6 million person-years lost by not implementing a mother-to-child transmission prophylaxis program using nevirapine. The total lost benefits of ARVs are at least 3.8 million person-years for the period 2000-2005.

What a price to pay. 🙁

ODF Plugfest

After the noise over whether or not the implementation of ODF (Open Document Format) in SP2 for Microsoft Office 2007 was deliberately broken for monopolistic purposes or incompetently implemented (or a combination of both) it’s nice to see that there is active interoperability work going on between vendors and developers at the ODF PlugFest, and the KOffice developers Jos van den Oever and Sven Langkamp attended and contributed to an article on the KDE DOT news website and Sven blogged about his positive experiences at the workshop.

It was first time I was going to such a workshop and I had expected that there would be fights between the different vendors like it happened in some blogs before the workshop. It was a pleasant surprise for me that the athmosphere was very friendly and productive. It was really nice to meet other people projects/companys, put the competition aside for some time, work and drink some beer together.

One neat feature mentioned there is the OfficeShots website which lets you submit an ODF document and then get back renderings of it (PDF, screenshot, ODF) from various ODF implementations. There are 8 listed at present (including KOffice), but sadly MS Word or Google Docs aren’t amongst them (yet).