Thursday Mar 13, 2008

Open Source for Sovereignty

Parascending in Sydney Harbour

I was interested to see news from the European Commission where they announce a new policy to more frequently use open source software in the administration of the European Union. They say:

For all new development, where deployment and usage is foreseen by parties outside of the Commission Infrastructure, Open Source Software will be the preferred development and deployment platform.

It's not just European government that's opting for open source. Today the NSA (the super-secret spy agency in the US) have announced they are joining in with OpenSolaris. Barton has an interview that explores this more. I think we'll see more and more government engagement as the adoption-led market takes hold.

Using Free software from open source communities makes perfect sense for governments, and not just for the obvious reasons of up-front savings on license fees. As I heard said on behalf of the Brazilian government, open source is a matter of sovereignty. When a government decides to use closed software, they are guaranteeing that they will be sending money out of the local economy. The degree of expatriation depends on the actual system they've chosen. In the worst case, all the money goes to the US, all the resulting assets belong to someone else and all the ongoing service and support costs pay for the development of skills abroad.

By contrast, using Free software has no licensing costs. Any extra programming results in an asset shared by an open source community. All service and support can be handled locally, growing the skill-base and economy. What could be a smarter way for a government to obtain the essential infrastructure it needs and develop the local economy at the same time?

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Thoughts and pointers on digital freedoms and technology markets. With a few photos too.

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