Yours Truly has often joked that the open source – or “open innovation” movement, as it’s sometimes called – sometimes resembles a quasi-religious cult. Now, however, it’s starting to resemble a political action committee.
Open Source for America is an alliance of more than 50 companies (including Red Hat, Oracle (News - Alert) and Sun), technology industry leaders, associations, various non-governmental organizations, communities and academic/research institutions.
It’s purpose? To promote the use of free and open source software by the U.S. federal government. This general statement can be deconstructed into three mission goals: (1) to effectuate changes in U.S. Federal government policies and practices so that all the government may more fully benefit from and utilize free and open source software; (2) to help coordinate these communities to collaborate with the Federal government on technology requirements; and (3) to raise awareness and create understanding among federal government leaders in the executive and legislative branches about the values and implications of open source software. OSA may also participate in standards development and other activities that may support its open source mission.
OSA prominently quotes the Gartner (News - Alert) Group, which recently estimated by 2011 more than 25 percent of government vertical, domain-specific applications will either be open source, contain open source application components or be developed as community source.
Like the U.S. Constitution, the OSA has its own Bill of Rights, sort of. While respecting the right of every software developer to choose the license that it believes best reflects its desires and needs, the OSA supports the “four freedoms” in the Free Software Definition (keep in mind that mathematicians and computer arrays start counting things with a sequence beginning with 0 instead of 1):
- Freedom 0 - The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.
- Freedom 1 - The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
- Freedom 2 - The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor.
- Freedom 3 - The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements (and modified versions in general) to the public, so that the whole community benefits. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
Membership in Open Source for America is open to any “entity” or person who submits an OSA membership application which consists, in part, of a commitment of support for OSA’s mission and founding principles.
With the decline in public advocacy for Voice over IP and Net Neutrality, it would be ironic if the open source movement (some of which consists of IP-based telephony applications) came up with a unified voice for open source in Washington.
Given the “big guns” that appear to be part of the OSA (Google, AMD (News - Alert), Democracy in Action, Oracle, Sun, Red Hat, etc.), they might just make a big publicity splash in Washington. As for an actual transformation in government sensibility and use of open source technology, that’s a far more problematic matter. It should be interesting to see what happens.
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Richard Grigonis is Executive Editor of TMC (News - Alert)�s IP Communications Group. To read more of Richard’s articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Michael Dinan