Australia's federal government has published a policy that mandates the consideration of open source software equally alongside proprietary products.
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The move represents a dramatic change in the government's position, according to Australian reports.
The policy was anounced just days after a decision by the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) to standardise on Microsoft's Office Open XML document standard sparked controversy.
The move has been criticised because of what many considered as the format's lack of compatibility with open source office suites such as OpenOffice.
In a statement, AGIMO said the government's previous policy on open source of "informed neutrality" meant agencies picked the technology which represented the best value for money and best fit for purpose.
"Since then, there has been an increase in the maturity of the open source software products and the use of open source software by governments around the world. In recent years, many governments have revised their policies to increase the adoption of open source software," the statement said.
Australian government agencies will be required to comply with the new so-called Open Source Software Policy Principles from 1 March 2011.