Government-Mandated Open Source
by Jonathan Hassell
After reading the latest go-'round between Thomas Greene of the Register and
Tim O'Reilly, I find myself heavily agreeing with Tim and not seeing Thomas'
point at all.
There are two major points that make Tim's position overall the more sensible
one. I will make the disclaimer that these points are most applicable to the
United States and anywhere else democracy exists; however, they're likely
relevant elsewhere as well.
- Software should never deprive someone of their right to choose.
Open source has been hailed by many because it offers them that one crucial
element: choice. For so long now, people have been trapped into the Microsoft
way of purchasing, training, using, and throwing out. It's been done on a
Microsoft cycle - grab the latest bugfix/release, spend money to purchase,
train, and deploy it, and throw it out two years later for more bugfixes...ahem,
releases. Now that Linux and other open source operating systems are prime
candidates for the server space (and some can even argue that Linux is ready
for the desktop, although I do have issues with that stance), we're not roped
in by Microsoft's cash-hungry enterprise.
So it appears to me that we're looking at taking away the very quality that's
made open source the viable industry force that it is today.
- The government should never deprive themselves of the tools to most
effectively govern their constituents. Remember Larry Ellison's offer to
donate Oracle software to the ill-fated effort to create a national ID card?
What if Oracle were the best solution for that? Under this law, the government
couldn't legally buy it for love or money, because I doubt Oracle is going to
cough up raw code for its crown jewel. We'd be stuck with a nationwide
identification system based on MySQL or something similar. While it's a great
product, do you think we should trust it?
That may be a roundabout way of getting to my point: choose the best tool for
the job. Why limit the government's choice? That affects every last single one
And really, that's cutting off our noses to spite our collective face.
What do you think the point of the law is? And how do you think government on open source only will affect you?
Responisbility of a government
A government has two responisbilities:
* It has to do the best job possible
* It has to be open to its people
you misrepresent Greene's point
I had to reread Greene's article after reading yours because your characterization of it made me think I had missed something. On the contrary, I now think that you missed these points.