Open Source Software (OSS) is a term whose use officially began in February 1998. OSS licensing enables individuals to use, rework and redeploy the software at zero cost (Zaidan, Al-Haiqi, Kiah, Hussain, and Abdulnabi, 2015). According to Gurusamy and Campbell (2011), adoption rates of OSS in Australia lagged behind other global regions. On the good side, Australian government has a growing interest in OSS. This perspective is particularly suitable for this era when Covid-19 pandemic has increased public service demand through electronic means.

The pandemic has caused shutting down of human activities that involved interaction and gathering. People have, thus, shifted to the internet-based services for communication, interaction, and work. De’ et al. (2020) indicated that Internet use has risen by 60% in the pandemic period. Usage of services of video-conferencing such as Zoom has grown ten times and content delivery (e.g. Akamai) 30%. However, these online participation channels have upfront and continuing technology costs. The development and deployment of OSS technologies by government can reduce costs for individuals seeking public services.

The Areas of Australian Government where OSS is Applicable

Similar to other parts of the globe, Australia has been affected by Covid-19 pandemic. The country has also taken initiatives such as closure of interstate and international borders, local lockdown, partial shutdown of learning institutions, and pushed for work from home (Andrikopoulos & Johnson, 2020). Australiana have, thus, moved to online resources to gain information, work, continue education/learning, purchase products, and request for services. If Australian government adopts OSS and redistributes it to citizens and other governments, sharing of information will take place at reduced costs. The four areas in which Australian government can implement OSS include military, healthcare, education, and agriculture.


Australian Defence Department has the duty of defending the country and its interests. With the outbreak of Covid-19, world’s governments have continued to seek assistance of the military in controlling the virus spread (Watts & Wilkinson, 2020). The military build new hospitals, deliver huge oxygen supplies and relieve medical personnel of workload. Implementation of OSS in this scenario will promote communication between the military and the government.

This way, the government can contact military officials and assign them work with ease. McLean (2016) noted growth in use of OSS in Defence Department. OSS solves the major technological challenges affecting military. For instance, the Military Open Source (Mil-OSS) holds conventions every year to share knowledge, recognise OSS programmes, announce expected policy changes and support military in implementation of OSS.      

A potential OSS technology for this role is DevOps.  The use of agile and latest DevOps methodologies can improve performance of Defence software, raise release numbers, improve coordination of various IT departments, increase automation and minimise possibility of errors (Russo, 2016). Application of OSS reduces monopoly of contractor in the areas of exclusivity of demanded capabilities. This provides extra time for Defence officials to concentrate on their primary business as the community works on codes.

Delivery also improves when engineers of military software concentrate on integration of capabilities of existing software instead of reconstructing the whole software system. DevOps is an emerging methodology of software engineering that aims to increase quality and amount of releases through blending of departments operations, development and quality assurance.

Health Care

In Australia, the Health Department is a branch of government that oversees the operations of the health system. The department’s duties include promoting access to affordable pharmaceutical, medical and hospital services. It also assists people with tips to maintain good health using health participation, promotion, and disease prevention practices.  The global spread of COVID-19 continues to overburden health systems.

Many people require diagnosis, isolation and treatment. Health systems are also facing shortages of staffing, facilities for testing, hospital beds, and crucial medical equipment (Chagas, Molly, Prieto-Godino and Baden, 2020). There is a need for collaboration between frontline workers and skilled public individuals with facilities, knowledge and time. This can be achieved through community-oriented approaches founded on Free and open Source scientific and medical Hardware (FOSH). The information and resources gained in this manner will encourage prevention of COVID-19 spread, diagnostics and treatment of patients (Chagas et al., 2020). Purkayastha, Allam, Maity, and Gichoya (2019) reported that the healthcare sector witnessed emergence of several OSS projects between 1999 and 2001.

The healthcare department uses the Free and Opens Source Software (FOSS) which can be obtained easily, by downloading from repositories. No licensing restrict distribution and modification. Besides, no fees is required before licensing. The study by Zaidan et al. (2015) found a significant rise of OSS packages in online health informatics. Software firms produce a range of OSS that through customisation to enable meeting of particular organisational needs.

OSS benefits such as the capacities to innovate and operate without vendors’ interference are of great relevance to healthcare (Purkayastha et al., 2019). There are also organisational challenges encountered in use of OSS in healthcare. They include long-term support arrangements, Electronic Health Record (EHR) funding and ownership, issues within domains and medical informatics, resource-restriction in certain environments, and human factor problems. The most appropriate OSS for health industry should have functionalities such as Electronic Medical Records System, uninterrupted medical learning, decisions guide, messaging, telemedicine, issues tracing, data retrieval, and imaging.


In the COVID-19 period, online learning is the only way to promote remote learning, access academic materials and ensure comfort of learners (Mukhtar, Javed, Arooj & Sethi, 2020). Policy advisers have recommended application of online modalities and adoption of lesson schedules with less cognitive contents and more interactivities. These will solve the inefficiencies and ethical issues resulting from online learning (Mukhtar et al., 2020). The impact of global spread of COVID-19 on education is closure of academic institutions. Schools and universities must thus adopt advanced technology (software and hardware) for effectiveness of online learning.

Online lessons promote student-centred education and is the most appropriate approach in the lockdown situation. Moreover, it ensures that learning process is not disrupted. There is rise in interest of institutions concerning ways of delivering course content online, how to engage learners, and completion of assessments (Mukhtar et al., 2020). Systems for online learning use web-based software to distribute, track and manage courses.

This requires use of advanced technology to administer, plan and distribute academic content. Also, there has to be a two-way communication between the faculty and learners. Learning components include hat rooms, quizzes, polls, whiteboards, surveys and forums that facilitate communication between educators and students. If the Australian government uses OSS in public schools and universities, the technological costs and challenges will be solved.   

Talib, Einea, Nasir, mowakeh and Eltawil (2019) showed that OSS technologies motivate students and encourage them to take technical courses. The problem with OSS implementation in educational areas is the lack of faculty, teachers and student understanding of the software. They neither understand its benefits nor possible uses. This hinders the development and maintenance of OSS in educational environment.

The challenges are worsened by the unwillingness of educational institutions to abandon the traditional programmes and embrace new ones. Luckily, there are a few knowledgeable educators that recommend use of OSS in schools and universities. Apart from its educational value, instructors that utilise OSS do not incur any extra costs. Furthermore, the investigation by Talib et al. (2019) revealed that students with experience using Linux expressed satisfaction and added that it reduced learning challenges.


One of the greatest roles of agriculture is to ensure food security. Kerr (2020) argued that COVID-19 pandemic has greatly disrupted economic activities. The swiftness of pandemic’s arrival denied countries the opportunity to establish plans on how international trade of agricultural goods would continue. Attempts to restrict spread of the virus have, for instance, created friction for individuals such as truck drivers that wish to transport goods across international borders.

Cessation of air travel has also affected delivery of freight by plane. Still, export supplies are expected to drop due to decreased production in the pandemic period. Retail outlets that specialized in exporting agricultural products will have to close due to decline in demand. Supply of labour has also been affected by the spread of COVID-19 pandemic. The disruption of household incomes will also contribute to further decline of demand. Kerr (2020) explained that although trade in agricultural products has been secured from the disturbances, this is a short-term success.  

Therefore, the agricultural sector requires technologies that can process data and avail crucial information to decision makers. Adoption of OSS will enable the Australian government and international governments to discuss how the food supply chain will be maintained in the long run. Discussions will unveil the immediate effects of the pandemic on food and agricultural products. The communication will also enable identification of potential short- and long-term risks (Stephens, Martin, van Wijk, Timsina & Snow, 2020) posed by the pandemic.

Also, proper tools and approaches are necessary to equip practitioners with the skills for implementing Precision and Smart Agriculture (Leroux et al., 2018). Jayathilake, Jayasinghe, Perera, Gow, and Waidyanatha (2018) explained that the competitive edge of farmers is enhanced if they have access to indigenous and scientific information. GeoFIS is an OSS with these capabilities (Leroux etal., 2018). The OSS covers spatial data/information and offers decision support. It contains the features that benefit spatial analysts, advisors and farmers in precision agriculture.

Another possible alternative is Knowledge Mobilisation concept that encourages adoption of technologies for information and communication to attain sustainable agriculture (Jayathilake et al., 2018). A combination of FOSS and mobile technologies are crucial in sharing the knowledge needed by agricultural communities. Jayathilake et al. (2018) reported that FOSS enables texting, voice-calls, and tracks interactive use of agricultural communication on daily basis.

Policy Advice

The process of selecting an OSS package that matches organisational needs is complex and takes a lot of time. Zaidan et al. (2015) identified Multi-criteria decision-making (MCDM) as one of the researchers’ recommended model for selection of the appropriate OSS technologies and applications. MCDM’s aim is to enable decision makers pick the most appropriate alternative after sorting all potential options and arranging them based on performance (Mardani etal., 2015).

It grants decision makers the flexibility to look into all relevant criteria and objectives at the same time (Kumar et al., 2016). MCDM has the capability to solve technical, environmental, social, economic, and institutional barriers. MCDM compares objectives of various criteria to find the most appropriate one. Any government department that avoids handling sophisticated procedures will land into several challenges while running OSS technologies.

The research by Gurusamy and Campbell (2011) reported incompatibility as one of the challenges Australian Public Sector (APS) organisations face as far as use of OSS is concerned. Lack of compatibility hinders the organisations from running OSS on their operating systems. A common feature that Gurusamy and Campbell discovered among the support tools of APS entities was that they were very specific to certain operating systems and unable to extend satisfactorily to given open source programmes. This led to demand for skills for implementation and maintenance of the software. Skills improvement expenses ended up making OSS costlier than proprietary products.

On advantage of OSS is that its license gives users the ability to customise it. Gupta and Surbhi (2018) indicated that organisations using OSS are allowed to modify it to match their needs (Gupta & Surbhi, 2018). With appropriate programming skills, any organisation can customize their functionality to produce an advanced system. This is even easier today because the increased use of OSS has been accompanied by a surge in establishment of user and developer communities (Purkayastha et al., 2019). The communities ensure frequent release cycles, software documentation, and support services.

Economic value of OSS applications may also affect their use. Expenses related to OSS are the implementation costs, support subscription, training staff and hiring of skilled personnel. In Gurusamy and Campbell’s (2011) report, some APS companies believed they lacked the skills required to implement and maintain the software. For this reason, some organisations thought of OSS as costly while others felt it saved costs. The lack of skilled personnel to hand OSS technologies is a problem that affects its adoption in healthcare (Zaidan et al., 2015), education (Talib et al., 2019), military (McLean, 2016) and agriculture (Stephens et al., 2020).

The government has to ensure sustainable funding and assign persons with technical knowledge in the desired areas to ensure effectiveness of the implementation of OSS. Gangadharan and Butler (2012) stated that effective use of OSS or FOSS requires better-informed decisions. This is what promotes realization of its potential value. Australian government has to ensure that its target areas show continuous readiness to work with a comprehensive model for decision making. This is how futuristic installation of information and communication technologies is attained.

Again, unavailability of comprehensive OSS documentation also influence effectiveness of its use. The unfavourable quality of end-user documentation becomes a major problem when concerns arise over possible evolution of open source software (Heron, Hanson & Ricketts, 2013). In most cases, the commercial software has better documentation and update compared to OSS. Still, some applications of OSS have satisfactory documentation quality (Gupta & Surbhi, 2018). This means that decision makers have to pay attention to documentation quality to identify what works best for the intended area of government. The content of license is also important in ensuring smooth running of OSS. The license should allow users to collect fee for selling the software, come with source code and authorize its distribution, and permit modifications.

The license should prohibit discrimination against people or groups. Users also need to ensure that the license is not specific to certain product or restrict some software (Gichira et al., 2012). The license should be neutral to technology. Even though the technical advantages of OSS like good quality and performance, security, reliability, and compatibility (Purkayastha et al., 2019) are generalised, not all OSS applications have these. Therefore, focusing on the advantages alone is not appropriate. To stay safe, it is important to choose from the popular OSS products like PHP, Linux, Web servers, Mozilla Firefox, Perl and MySQL (Gichira, Kahonge and Muriti, 2012). Such application have been in use and there are reviews about their performance.


The outbreak of Covid-19 has led to practices such as quarantine, isolations and lockdowns. People have thus turned to electronic means to seek information, share ideas, communicate and interact with others. While this remains the only way to accomplish these activities, the upfront and technological expenses of these online channels are huge. It will be very beneficial to both the citizens and Australian government if the adoption of OSS is effective.

OSS minimises costs through free licensing, modification and redistribution. However, the process of selecting the appropriate application is sophisticated but necessary. The government must also identify all the potential risks and determine how they will be managed to improve effectiveness of the installed OSS-based information and communications technologies.