Thursday, May 15, 2008

Is the Federal Budget FOSS Friendly?

Well... the first budget for the new Labor Federal Government and there have been some changes to the way that purchased computer software (or software licenses) are depreciated, with regards to tax right-offs. Australian IT News Article. The depreciation period on capital expenditure on business software has been increased from 2.5 to 4 years. This was projected to lead to $1.3 billion dollars of government savings up to 2012. This money is then going towards a National Secondary School Computer Fund (NSSC) of $1.2 billion which is to pay for computers and communication technology. So.. where is the incentive to make more use of Free and Open Source Software? Indirectly, I think that this is an excellent budget for FOSS. The proposal is for individual schools to be able to receive up to $1 million dollars as a grant. This is targeted spending, and the schools would need to justify the way that the grant gets spent. To work properly, this would require that the schools have freedom on how they spend their grant money. Schools could choose either to buy the 'latest and greatest' (typically this will be Apple), or they could extend their spending power by just buying hardware and installing Free and Open Source Software on top of this (eg. Ubuntu). The usual benefits would then also apply.. Schools would be able to offer all the software that they use to their students to take home; upgrades and security updates would be available free of charge; students can start to learn about the Free and Open Source Software community and participate and contribute the Free and Open Source. All good... So what about businesses? Businesses will carry an increased tax burden for an additional one and a half years, over the next 4 years. In a tightening economy, this maybe enough of an incentive to switch to Free and Open Source Software. If businesses do take up Free and Open Source Software en-mass, then the education fund could be significantly less than projected. This could, in turn, drive the adoption of FOSS in schools, as funds for computer grants become tighter. So, watch the space. The budget assumes a status quo which may not continue. If this changes, FOSS is an attractive proposition for those people that would then like to make use of it.