I recently returned from the Thirteenth International Forum for Free Software (FISL) in Porto Alegre Brazil. With an attendance of about 8,000 this year, it is the largest tech conference in South America and likely the largest free/open source conference in the world. I was fortunate to have attended representing OSI and presented a keynote on free and open source software and its civic and social impact around the world, and a second session on Economic Development.
The Brazilian government – with great grassroots support – was a pioneer in the use of free software as an economic development strategy, and also to bridge the digital divide by lowering the barrier to access to technology. Today the government’s involvement has shifted in some respects, and community leaders from a number of Latin American countries are debating in general the pros and cons of government partnership in their FOSS initiatives.
The “Hacker Bus” project – pictured above behind myself and colleague Paulo Mierelles from the University of Sao Paulo FLOSS Competency Center - really impressed. Getting technology and “Hacktivism” out into undeserved areas makes for a fantastic program.
You can read more about the project on The Next Web published during last year’s conference.
On April 6th, 2012 the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFBP) rolled out their brand new Source Code Policy, setting the direction for their agency to consume and contribute to open source software.
As a brand new agency, CFBP is in the enviable position of creating their technology road map on a while sheet of paper. No legacy systems, no legacy contracts, no legacy skill sets; not your frequent scenario in the federal government. Unburdened by existing IT operations and entrenched processes based on outdated policies they were free to envision a fresh approach that reflects and supports their public trust mission.
We use open-source software, and we do so because it helps us fulfill our mission.
When we build our own software or contract with a third party to build it for us, we will share the code with the public at no charge.
They may have had the new guy advantage, but they’ve done some great work that makes it easier for other agencies to model. CFPB has crafted a clear, concise policy for its use and then shared it broadly. They follow in the footsteps of the Department of Defense, which began producing and refining policy for their agency personnel in this area a number of years ago. CFPB hopes other agencies will find the policy useful as a reference model and to that end have also shared it on GitHub Gist.
I’ve been privileged to have collaborated with the agency’s chief architect of the policy Matthew Burton over the past five years or so. I met Matthew about the time he authored a great essay entitled Why I Help the Man (and why you should too) and worked on a project (“Open Intel”) for the U.S. Department of Energy. Congratulations to Matthew and the team at CFPB for their thoughtful work and leadership in this policy area, and for their creativity in making it a public asset. And I have to add….thanks for making it one of the easiest reads ever for a federal IT policy.
You can read Matthew’s full official post on the publication of the policy on the agency web site.
It’s been about five years since the DoD-commissioned Open Technology Development Road Map was published, considered the definitive primer for smart government agencies and their personnel diving in to Open Source development, acquisition and operational policy-making. The next anxiously-awaited (well, not anxious but very much looked-forward to) installment – entitled “Open Technology Development: Lessons Learned and Best Practices for Military Software” is now available in a PDF format.
You can down the new publication here: OTD-lessons-learned-military-FinalV1
If you’re interested in the 2006 Open Technology Road Map document, it’s still a great resource. You can download it here: OTDRoadmap_v3_Final
If you’re interesting in watching the OTD’s author-on-point John Scott present the original OTD Road Map at GOSCON 2006, here’s the link to the video: http://www.youtube.com/user/osuosl#p/u/24/QOEFSygla5s
If you’d like to read Karl Fogel’s gushing review of the doc for Civic Commons, it’s here: http://civiccommons.org/2011/05/dod-open-technology-guide/
Finally, you can visit the Mil-OSS community at http://mil-oss.org/
A document I am very pleased to be associated with; thanks John Scott for the opportunity and congratulations on hitting another one out of the park.
Enjoy! and share with a friend.
First the musings: Because I’ve been involved with open source adoption in Government nearly since Al Gore invented the Internet, I get a lot of questions about what the White House is thinking about Open Source. Joking aside, this has been present on people’s minds since the new administration took office. For those familiar with some of the appointees’ backgrounds, there was a hope that open source software would play larger role in Federal IT.* People got very excited when the White House web site moved to Drupal. I thought it cool too, and accepted that as a sign of more flexible thinking. At the same time, having run a technology policy office (at the state level) earlier in my career, I understood that moving a web site to an open source Content Management System did not constitute a major break-through in a complex IT acquisition environment where the greatest savings and efficiencies remain in larger investments in software development for systems unique (if not common within) government.
On to the news: Yesterday’s United States Office of Management and Budget (OMB) memo entitled “Technology Neutrality” and signed by the US Chief Information Officer Viveck Kundra is a balanced and inclusive expression of options the feds should consider when procuring information technology.
“…agencies should analyze alternatives that include proprietary, open source, and mixed source technologies. This allows the Government to pursue the best strategy to meet its particular needs.”
Even with its quiet Friday release, it has been reasonably well-covered by the press, along with a bit of speculation about “why now”. You can check out some of the coverage at NextGov TechInsider, GovFresh, and FedRadio. Classically, the new media folks touched on implications for open source while Fed Radio’s take on the memo was “a reminder not to use brand names in their procurements.”
I’ll just take this as a win for a more balanced view, now institutionalized as advice to Federal CIOs.
What’s next? I want to hear more about how the GSA may use use an open source cloud solution for that new forge.gov project. We all have our wish lists, that one is high on mine.
* Viveck Kundra and Aneesh Chopra had extensive experience with open source in their respective roles prior to joining the Obama administration. See Kundra’s GOSCON 2008 Keynote presentation “Open Source as a way of Life”.
Click to Download 2008 GOSCON Keynote Presso
Vicki E. Allums, Associate General Counsel for Intellectual Property at the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) will join GOSCON this week to discuss a document released today by CENDI, a cooperative of the major Federal science, technology and information centers. The document titled “Frequently Asked Questions about Copyright and Computer Software: Issues Affecting the U.S. Government with Special Emphasis on Open Source Software”, its principal authors from Defense Information Systems Agency and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is expected to serve as a useful resource as federal agencies increasingly adopt the use of open source software in their IT architectures.
Allums will walk attendees thought the new document including:
- US Government policy guidance regarding use of Open Source Software (OSS)
- Issues unique to federal agencies distributing OSS
- OSS copyright licensing and contractual considerations for the US Government
- Advantages and Disadvantages to federal agencies using OSS as an alternative to proprietary technologies.
Hope you can join me at GOSCON this week and not miss these important milestones in the evolution of information technology within the US Government.
The June 23, 2009 Government Open Source Conference (GOSCON) DC Call for Speakers is now open!
The conference will include one day of intense GOSCON program content, exciting keynotes, lightening-round sessions, rich opportunities to network with peers. Topics include:
- Open Source in the Enterprise
- Open Collaboration & Federal Grants
- Open Health IT- Vertical Showcase on Public Health
- Effective E-Government – Gov 2.0
Speaker Guideline and online proposal forms are availlable through the conference Call for Speakers page.