Access and Feeds

Open Source: Advocates to Government

By Dick Weisinger

Two years ago a group was founded with the charter of lobbying for the expanded use of Open Source software within the government.  The group is called Open Source for America (OSFA), and it has more than 70 members that include companies like Acquia, Alfresco Software, Advanced Micro Devices, Black Duck Software, CollabNet, Debian, Electronic Frontier Foundation, EnterpriseDB, Google, Ingres, Jaspersoft, Mitch Kapor, KnowledgeTree, The Linux Foundation, Lucid Imagination, Mozilla,  Novell,  Oracle, O’Reilly Publishing, Pentaho, Red Hat, SpikeSource, SugarCRM, and Zimbra.

William Vass, advisor to the OSFA, told SDTimes that OSFA’s view at the federal level of government is that the Department of Defense and the intelligence community have been very open to the use of Open Source, but elsewhere among the feds there hasn’t yet been much uptake.  Rishab Ghosh, another board advisor to the OSFA, said that many agencies are very entrenched in Microsoft technology and that it’s not at all uncommon to see procurement requests where Microsoft is called out specifically as the desired technology platform.  Ghosh says that including a vendor name in the procurement is against the law and he likens it to a public parking lot that allowed only Ford cars to be parked in it.

Vass commented that while many federal agencies have specifically banned the use of Open Source, it still manages to slip in.  Often yet with a little digging they find that many of those agencies that have ‘banned’ Open Source are actually using software like Apache, Linux or Java.  While Open Source has found advocates within the Department of Defense, they’re looking for more examples with government of the use of Open Source that can be used to help spread the word among the other departments and agencies.

Vass said that “What we need is the membership of OSFA and vendors who have successfully deployed open-source software in federal, or state, or local government to give us the product name and the name of who sponsored you in the government, so we can start holding them up as examples.  We need their help in talking to Congress and influencing their state congressmen and state legislature to advocate policies that are supportive of open source, primarily to provide better cyber-security for our nation, to reduce the cost to taxpayers, to increase speed of deployment, and to provide more openness for government.”

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