Open Source Voting : An idea of Global Importance

IPA Japan Representatives

IPA Japan Representatives

I just returned from Matsue, Japan, also known famously as “Ruby City” after the programming language whose inventor lives there.

During my stay there I provided the keynote for a Shimane University-sponsored seminar on Open Source Software, Industry and Academic collaboration.  It was an honor to represent some of the institutions and groups in Oregon, the successes and challenges we’ve faced in using, promoting, developing and supporting a full open eco-system in our somewhat unique state.  Key to my message and encouragement to participants from all sectors of their region was this; if you want to demonstrate the value of open source to non-technical constituencies, identify and collaborate on a project with clear public benefit.

One of the panelists was Mr. Hatta from Japan’s Information-Technology Promotion Agency’s (IPA).  He told me later he changed his presentation as I spoke, struck by the proposition of public benefit projects.  I’ll ask for his presentation and share it here soon.

His wrap-up recommendation: create a public benefit project and the suggestion that project might be an Open Source Election system,  apparently an idea with universal appeal/compelling need.

I’ll come back soon to sharing more about my travels to Matsue City, their impressive open source software initiative, the investment their government has made, and the outstanding collaboration between the university, industry and public sectors.

I’d also be remiss in my public benefit duties if I did not provide a final plug for the February 18th Open Source Digital Voting Foundation’s (  “TrustTheVote” intro in Portland, Oregon (see prior post for agenda).  I’m looking forward to introducing them to my colleagues in Japan soon, and looking forward to hearing from Gregory Miller and John Sebes, the co-founders, even sooner.


TrustTheVote! intro in Portland, Oregon

Feb 18, 2009, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m.

CubeSpace, 622 SE Grand Ave, Portland

Open Source Voting Systems On the Way


I’ve recently been asked to join as an adviser to the Open Source Digital Voting Foundation.  In my view, this is one of the most important open source projects around for the US system of democracy.  I was deeply impressed by their open standards specification,  public trust approach and the work they’ve done thus far – with little public fan fare – to establish the non-partisan initiative which has become known as “TrustTheVote!”.

Recognizing a large, active OSS community exists in Oregon, the OSDV is coming to Portland on February 18th to introduce their project.  Although the meeting content is designed for a technical audience, the project overview and progress-to-date would be of interest to many.

Here’s a description of the event.  You can also view details including a map to the event at Portland’s CubeSpace on Yahoo or Calagator.  If you’re in the area, hope to see you there!

TrustTheVote! intro in Portland, Oregon, Feb 18, 2009

Discover this imperative “public digital works project” of the Open Source Digital Voting Foundation. The OSDV Foundation is a Silicon Valley based public benefits corporation whose mission is to work to restore trust in how America votes through the design, development, and demonstration of open source digital voting technology.

Join us to learn details about the “TrustTheVote Project,” a well funded non-profit effort which has been under the radar for 2 years. The OSDV Foundation is now raising public awareness, and expanding efforts including a planned development center in Portland, Oregon.

Our guests are two executives of the Foundation including its Chief Technology Officer. Their presentation will:

  • Introduce the project, its motivation, founding, and development efforts to date;
  • Walk through the TrustTheVote technology road map and review major projects underway;
  • Discuss development philosophies and approaches including experience-driven design and test-driven agile development;
  • Review opportunities for systems architects, software developers, SDQA/test specialists, and user experience designers;
  • Cover plans to expand the volunteer developer teams, future opportunities for senior members of technical staff, and opportunities for you to get involved.

Gregory Miller, Chief Development Officer

E. John Sebes, Chief Technology Officer

event on: Yahoo or Calagator

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.

Open Source PBX | Asterisk

Asterisk Logo

I’ve had numerous calls recently asking me about the (to simplify) open source version of PBX software, Asterisk.  Several years ago the State of Oregon extensively tested and deployed an Asterisk server, then later developed several cost-effective applications on the platform which their agency customer could not have otherwise afforded. They wrote up a brief case study on their experience, so I thought I’d post it here for sharing. Kudos to the Department of Administrative Services, Data and Video Services for being ahead of their time on this one. Today, numerous governmental agencies have deployed Asterisk. Here in Oregon, that includes the Portland Metropolitan Service District.

Continue reading

Small Town, Big Use of Open Source Software

One of the local government stories (success and challenge) we’d hoped to see at GOSCON this year was from the City of Northglenn, Colorado.  Christine Martinez,  formerly a systems analyst there, can’t join us this year but she was kind enough to share her slide set on that city’s extensive use of open source software which she presented last year at the 2007 National Association of Government Webmasters Conference held in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

The project list covered in the presentation includes:

  • Joomla! CMS (and custom supporting applications)
  • PHPSurveyor
  • WebDocs
  • PHPLists
  • NGDIS (Northglenn Document Imaging System)
  • Police Bulletin Board

It’s no secret I’m a big fan of E-Government.  Northglenn’s out-the-box thinking netted web services to city employees that they could use without the IT department’s intervention.  And how many small towns have a document imaging system?  If you’re living in a small town, government transparency by way of the Internet depends on the webmaster’s work load and vacation schedule.  Good Content Management Systems (CMS) make it easy for non-technical public service employees to share  what’s up at your seat of government.  Impressive and resourceful.

You can view the presentation on GoogleDocs.

Open Source Software to Support EPA’s National Environmental Information Exchange Network

I’m not a fan of simply passing along a press release, but I found this one to exemplifiy the growing trend I see in open source software in government;

  • OSS adoption and use is moving beyond tools and infrastructure and up the stack
  • More vendors are becoming involved in providing services and support, key to successful government IT strategies (proprietary or open source)
  • And something I’ve been saying for four years; the greatest value to governments lies in the model itself, creating collaborative communities with common program missions and business requirements.

"CGI Announces Open Source Software to Support EPA’s National Environmental Information Exchange Network

FAIRFAX, VA, June 3 — CGI Federal, Inc., a wholly-owned U.S. operating subsidiary of CGI Group Inc. (NYSE: GIB; TSX: GIB.A), today announced the release of the first Open Source Node 2.0 software product to be available to EPA data exchange partners on the National Environmental Information Exchange Network (Exchange Network). The CGI Node 2.0 software is offered to Exchange Network partners and other interested members of the environmental community to give them capabilities to publish, share, and gain access to environmental data for improved decision making.

The National Environmental Information Exchange Network includes EPA’s Central Data Exchange (CDX), the point of entry for Agency environmental data exchanges. Together, CDX and the Exchange Network partners’ nodes are the infrastructure that enable efforts to collect, share and monitor the environmental data used to assess the impact of global warming, monitor the safety of our water supplies, gather geographic information on sources of pollution, and encourage overall excellence in the study and stewardship of our environment.

CGI Node 2.0 represents an expansion of this community to allow sharing across federal, state, commercial and citizen boundaries related to software development and technological innovation. It allows users to collaborate, publish, and discover environmental information and services across disparate systems. The node’s dashboard allows for quick and easy reporting, scheduling, and administration capabilities.

"Flexible and rapid data exchange capabilities are critical to responding to environmental challenges faced by government agencies and their trading partners," said Melanie Morris, Chief of Data Integration Division, Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. "Establishing the building blocks of an Open Source community that supports environmental collaboration and decision making will help stakeholders leverage their investments and capitalize on shared business drivers."

CGI Vice President Kenyon Wells added: "CGI is proud of our long history in helping EPA meet its mission of protecting the environment. Our open source software is the latest example of how CGI invests in the success of its clients and will allow Exchange Network partners to save money while promoting standardization for the sharing of important environmental data."

CGI will be hosting a Webinar to demonstrate the CGI Node 2.0 on June 4th. For more information about this event or about the Node product please refer to the CGI Environmental Practice Website:

Source: CGI GROUP INC. CONTACT: Peter Cutler, Director, Communications, (703) 227-6933,"

Linux, Unix, and Sun

LinuxToday’s editor and contributor to many technical publications, Brian Proffitt covered GOSCON 2007 and continues to share pearls from his time with presenters and attendees. He has a gift for ferreting out the stories beyond the usual conference din. His original story can be found at, I’m sharing the more intriguing portion here of his take on the use of Linux vs. Unix and Sun Solaris in the government environment based on conversations with some of the managers attending the conference in Portland, Oregon.
October 24, 2007
Enterprise Unix Roundup: Government Vibes, A New OS X
By Brian Proffitt

In an effort to actually live up to the proud name of Enterprise Unix Roundup, I thought this column would actually try to be a roundup.

Part of the rationale for such a structure this week is due to my recent return from Portland, having attended the Government Open Source Conference (GOSCON). No official Unix news came out of GOSCON, although there was a brief exchange during a keynote of the conference that gave me a brief glimpse into what the public sector might be thinking in terms of Unix, Linux and Windows deployments. Continue reading