US Gov Memo Spells Out Open Source Inclusion in Federal Acquisition

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”.

GOSCON 2008 Keynote Slides

Click to Download 2008 GOSCON Keynote Presso


Open Source Lab Inside Story at OSBC March 18th

OSBC_bannerMy executive hero and Oregon State University Open Source Lab (OSU OSL) visionary Curt Pederson will be doing a talk about the OSL at this week’s Open Source Business Conference in San Francisco.  If you’re going to be at OSBC drop by and thank Curt for his critical role in making the case for the creation of the OSL six years ago.  The dedicated staff and students at the OSL have created a world-class home for dozens of important open source communites like the Linux Foundation, Apache Foundation, Drupal, Gentoo Foundation, Debian Linux and many more.

Curt is a fantastic supporter of open Collaboration and loves to share the inside story of the Lab. He’ll be speaking Thursday March 18th at 4 p.m., here’s the abstract:

Inside the Open Source Lab
Curt Pederson, Vice Provost and CIO, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon

Oregon State University has emerged as one or the global leaders in the expanding “open source” movement and an integral part of a growing Oregon movement in support of community based innovation and collaboration. From Oregon resident Linus Torvalds and Governor Kulongoski to the student employees working in the Open Source Lab (OSL), we have a very unique open climate for doing leading edge research, teaching and business in Oregon and beyond.

Curt Pederson will describe Oregon State University’s role in today’s emerging “open ecosystem” and how the OSL has gone from being a spectator to having one of the largest host sites of open source applications and community Linux releases in the world. Curt will also discuss the overall ROI that OSU has obtained by using open source tools versus other commercial solutions.

Best Practices for Software Development in Government

presentationimagepngLast winter I received a request from the US Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Policy to come Charleston and meet with a group of innovative law enforcement execs. If you belong to the public safety community or are interested in how governments are making collaboratives work, a copy of my presentation is viewable on google from this link:

http://docs.google.com/Presentation?id=dfj65hxm_1404gk5kchg

Community Source and Goverment Applications

I’m working on following up with a number of requests for information post-GOSCON.  Always number one on my list; agencies looking to determine if/how they might jump in to using open source software development methodology to produce government-specific applications.  These applications are typically costly since the market for such is limited.  Developing the same vertical application for all Secretaries of State’s office, for example, is still just fifty customers and makes for a small pool to amortize the cost of commercial development.

The one of the early pioneers of community source model is Dr. Brad Wheeler at Indiana University.  In late 2006 the Open Source Lab management team interviewed him by video conference to extract some advice for others on creating governance for a community source project.  I came across the resulting  debrief and thought I’d put it somewhere it could be shared more broadly.  Here it is for download:

“Community Source” Project Governance:
The Sakai Project as a Potential Reference Model for Public Sector Community Source Development

I think it’s valuable to consider that the model of shared development suggest benefits beyond sharing the cost and resulting application, such as sharing business practices and processes, knowledge base and documentation.  But I digress.  We’ll share more from the experts from our Open Government Collaboratives 2008 panel as soon as we get the conference media through GOSCON post-production.

Brazil: Joint Development Defines Free Software & Standards

It’s Day One of GOSCON and we’re about to start our distributed discussion “Global Dialogue on the Impact of Open Source Software in Transforming Government”. Marcos Vinicius Ferreira Mazoni shared these comments on the sustained government initiative in Brazil to use open source and open standards – proprietary software not excluded.  Comments include his views the value of collaboration and knowledge- Continue reading

The World Joins the Government Open Source Conference

I’ve been talking with some colleagues over the past few months about putting together a group of folks from Washington, D.C. at the World Bank offices there for a joint session during our first ever International Open ICT Summit.  I’d met Samia Melhem when we spoke on a panel together at a Gartner Summit a few years ago and we’d been looking to find a way to collaborate since.

The World Bank GLobal ICT Dept is an amazing, distributed team who, in just a few days, have facilitated connections with Brazil, Sri Lanka, Russia, Rwanda, Senegal, in addition to D.C. and our own site in Portland Continue reading