May 2009

Last summer, the Center for Strategic and International Studies published the sixth update to their Open Source Policy survey. The survey "tracks governmental policies on the use of open source software as reported in the press or other media." The report lists 275 open source policy initiatives. It also breaks down by country and by government level whether the policy on the use of open source is considered to be advisory, preferential, or mandatory.

The editorial theme for the May issue of the OSBR is "open source in government" and we are pleased that the authors have drawn upon their experiences to provide insight into public policy regarding open source for many parts of the world.

As news editor of the European Union's Open Source Observatory and Repository, Gijs Hillenius stays up-to-date with open source activity within the 27 member states of the European Union. His article provides an overview of some the advancements and setbacks in the implementation of open source and open standards by European public administrations.

Edgy Paiva, whose company helped the government of the Brazilian State of Ceara to develop its government websites using open source content management systems, shows how the Brazilian Government is using open source. He gives some examples of successful Brazilian projects, explains some implementation difficulties, and makes a comparison of the advantages and disadvantages of mandating the use of open source.

Mike Gifford, president and founder of an open source consulting firm, discusses the global momentum in federal government departments to support open source. He presents some of the problems with the Canadian federal government's procurement process and why he believes Canada is at the tipping point for acceptance of open source at a policy level.

The latest generation of open source policies encompass more than just the use of open source software. They address a culture of openness where the government collaborates with its citizens. The recently published Spring 2009 Intergovernmental Solutions Newsletter provides insights into the ongoing cultural shift within the United States. Darlene Maskell, Director of Intergovernmental Solutions at the US General Services Administration, wrote the introductory article to the publication which we are pleased to republish in the OSBR.

Like many small countries with an emerging economy, the government of Latvia recognizes the importance of education and technology and has stressed the acquisition of higher education and multiple-language fluency. Tom Schmit, an instructor at Riga Business School, and Zigmunds Zitmanis,Vice-Rector for Information Technology at Riga Technical University, discuss the reasons for the University's choice of an open source product as the application to provide the single point of entry into electronic services.

As always, we encourage readers to share articles of interest with their colleagues, and to provide their comments either online or directly to the authors. We hope you enjoy this issue of the OSBR.

The editorial theme for the upcoming June issue of the OSBR is "Women in Open Source" and the guest editor will be Rikki Kite from Linux Pro Magazine.

Dru Lavigne

Editor-in-Chief

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This edition of the OSBR provides a fascinating look at open source software projects and policy approaches by representative governments in North America, South America and Europe.

The governments of France, Spain and Brazil have been very active in supporting open source software--in some cases, even mandating it. The following articles show different reasons for these policies: whether it is to lower cost, to support local industry or to gain control over software from proprietary models.As Edgy Paiva states in his look at Brazil's software situation, when given the choice, it really should be all about return on investment (ROI). I would contend that ROI needs to be broadly defined. It goes beyond cost, it also includes support of local industy and innovation. As Darlene Meskell implies in her article, open source can help instill a culture of transparency and openness in government.

Returning to the concept of innovation, Tom Schmit and Zigmunds Zitmanis imply that innovation can be defined as the ability to "change, extend, create, and individualize its structure". This type of innovation gives the potential to develop solutions which will take the organization to the next step and develop competitive advantage over its rivals.

Gijs Hillenius reminds us that it is not always easy and that changing the entrenched procurement model seems to be the biggest obstacle to the adoption of open source software.

Mike Gifford presents the Canadian situation with an adoption problem similar to the Europeans. Within the existing Canadian government procurement model, the rules present an obstacle to adoption. He also presents some good news as open source usage continues to grow despite the obstacles.

James Bowen

Guest Editor

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