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Open Source for America: A resource for the Gov2.0 CTO and other IT decison makers

With this post I’d like to tell you a bit more about the coalition Open Source for America and why I believe it is so important for our collective future. I would also like to encourage you to join this coalition yourself. Whether you represent industry, academia, non-profit organizations or are an individual technologist this coalition needs your help and support. And, although I try to write perspective relevant for technologists, this coalition needs all types of people.

The coalition is designed to serve as a centralized resource for information on open source technologies, thereby helping serve the U.S. Federal Government’s mission. Just as community is at the heart of open source software, community is at the heart of the Open Source for America group. That spirit comes through loud and clear in the organization’s charter. If you support our stated principles, we need you as part of this coalition.

This charter is based on respect for the community, respect for the federal government, and respect for developers, and of course respect for the CIO, CTO and other enterprise technology decision-makers. The charter includes four principles that OSA and its members agree to and support. They are:

1. While respecting the right of every developer to choose the license that it believes best reflects its desires and needs, we support the four freedoms in the Free Software Definition.

– The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0);
– The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this;
– The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2); and
– The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements (and modified versions in general) to the public, so that the whole community benefits (freedom 3). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

2. We applaud the commitment of the Administration to make the U.S. Federal government more transparent, participatory, secure, and efficient, and urge the U.S. Federal government to pursue this goal by leveraging the advantages of free and open source software.

3. We believe that the community can drive collaborative innovation in the U.S. government space, resulting in greater efficiencies and national competitiveness.

4. We believe the decision to use software should be driven solely by the requirements of the user, and not by a mandate for a particular brand, vendor, or development model.

Why do I believe this is so important for our future? Enterprise quality Open Source Software, like Linux, Open Solaris, Open Office, MySQL, Firefox, Alfresco, Pentaho, PostgreSQL, Collabnet and many others, provide the federal government with software that is more secure, more reliable, more economical and more supportive of accelerating innovation into the federal space. But the nature of the communities behind these capabilities is one that does not give them large multi-million dollar advertising budgets like some proprietary capabilities. This can lead some decision-makers under informed of what may frequently be the best choice. Community-based advocacy and collaborative self-education is called for and your time and assistance in this area can really help the nation out.

The time you spend reviewing this coalition’s website would be most appreciated. Find the coalition at http://opensourceforamerica.org

My hope is that after review of the site and the principles articulated there you will join us in this coalition. It is easy to do. Just review the principles and join us here.

You can also read more on the Open Source Software topic at my site at http://http://ctovision.com/category/open-source/

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Very exciting project and coalition. I hope we can spur more open-source adoption in the public sector and help with the education.

Moira Deslandes

Some of you might be interested in reactions from Australia earlier in the year related to this topic. Here is a link to a media story http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/02/16/2492571.htm written by a Greens Member of Paraliament. I chose it as an example of the politics around the issue as well which needs consideration as well as the technical issues. Those of you in the procurement area might be interested in this from the Aus Govt as well http://www.finance.gov.au/e-government/infrastructure/open-source-software.html