While the South African government has been an outspoken advocate of open source software over the past few years, the IT companies that supply technology to government favour open standards.
This message came out clearly during the opening of the GovTech 2008 conference in Durban this morning.
Following a keynote address by minister of public service and administration, Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, a poll found that more than 72% of delegates believed the South African government’s primary focus should be on open standards rather than open source software.
During her speech, minister Fraser-Moleketi said that open source and open standards were important to government because they ensured interoperability and "guaranteed" the ability of government to "pass the baton" on to the next generation, unhindered by proprietary formats.
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.
GovTech is a four-day conference hosted by the State Information Technology Agency (Sita).