October 20, 2009, 2:29 am
Some of the best software available is open source, but non-proprietary software has enemies as well as friends. Not surprisingly, then there‚Äôs been plenty of fog on Capitol Hill about free and open source software (FOSS) for a decade now.
In the beginning, most big software companies were a‚Äôgin it, and any government agency CIO allowing a useful bit of FOSS to find a home on the servers she supervised was not likely to advertise that fact. Eventually, some major vendors (like IBM) began including FOSS programs in the systems they were promoting to government customers. But that only made things worse, because other vendors (like Microsoft) went actively on the offensive, initially comparing the theory and appeal of FOSS to that of communism.
With hordes of lobbyists deployed on the ground in Washington and in state capitals throughout the nation, it was soon a brave, and perhaps foolhardy, public IT manager who would dare to take a public stand in defense of FOSS.
It‚Äôs time for the Obama Administration to publicly state that it whole heartedly supports FOSS procurement by the federal agencies. Not in preference to proprietary software, but on an equal basis. Only by doing so can it ensure that when it comes to getting the best deal for the American public, the best software will win.