Chicago’s lakefront. Photograph: Richard Cummins/Corbis
I’m headed to Chicago. No, not a delegate to the NATO Summit, but expect to share the same traffic jams.
This weekend thirteen Open Source Initiative (OSI) directors meet face-to-face in Chicago. Three directors are recently elected, myself included, and a full agenda awaits.
If you’re not familiar, here’s the nutshell background:
The Open Source Initiative (OSI) is a non-profit corporation with global scope formed to educate about and advocate for the benefits of open source and to build bridges among different constituencies in the open source community.
One of our most important activities is as a standards body, maintaining the Open Source Definition for the good of the community. The Open Source Initiative Approved License trademark and program creates a nexus of trust around which developers, users, corporations and governments can organize open source cooperation.
The most pressing issue for the board today is moving the organization from a self-appointed group of volunteers to that of a member-driven organization, no small task, but an important one if OSI is to become most relevant.
– Deb Bryant
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 Unburdened by existing IT operations and entrenched processes based on outdated policies they were free to envision a fresh approach that reflects and supports their public trust mission.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.
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
CIO Magazine has noted Australia’s maturity in the Open Source Software in government, interviewing Gartner Research’s leading OSS analyst for that sector – Andrea DiMaio – in an article entitled “Public Sector Warms to Open Source“. It’s been over two years since the country released its “Guide to Open Source Software for Australian Government Agencies”.
Sidebar: DiMaio will keynote at GOSCON (small shameless plug for an outstanding event) on October 16, 2007 in Portland, Oregon. We can expect to hear more on Australia’s leading effort, as well as the general challenges agencies face in adoption OSS (on the later, read: update internal skill sets). To his point, GOSCON will host a supplemental workshop on Open Source Policy Development.
From the CIO article:
“Public sector and government organizations around the world are adopting increasingly mature open-source products, with Australia at the front of the trend.
And while Gartner recently warned governments of all stripes about the need for a greater focus on establishing OSS policies, the Australian government is confident it has the matter well in hand.
A recent Gartner survey found what it called “a remarkable lack of maturity” in establishing OSS policies in public-sector organizations. It warned while most clients had significant deployments of open source, there was a dearth of formal and comprehensive policies covering aspects such as inventory, procurement, vendor assessment and selection, OSS license risk assessment and management, liability limitation, and participation in OSS communities.” Continue reading