Will the U.S. government move to open source?
U.S. President Barack Obama has encouraged agencies to move away from from proprietary systems and on to open source. The call came as part of the Open Government Directive, which was issued in Dec. 2009, and aims bring "transparency, participation, and collaboration form the cornerstone of an open government."
Earlier this week, the Open Source for America effort issued a report card that points out the benefits that U.S. government agencies could get on using open source. Some benefits include agility, flexibility, scalability and cost efficiencies (they cite a Meritalk 2009 study that open source software could save $3.7 billion). Open source code is also available for the public to review, which could mean flaws could be quickly fixed.
The effort recommends moving to procurement of open-source software, implementing projects that allows citizens to contribute, and to move to open-file formats (and to phase out proprietary formats like PDF and Microsoft Word).
Now to wait and see when Gov. 2.0 takes effect, and its ramifications. InformationWeek has an interesting piece that points out that Directive could open the government up to cloud computing, which could consolidate data. The agility could also open up more agencies to social media and mashups to provide services communicate with civilians.
There is a larger move to open-source in governments. Russia has already mandated open-source by 2015. The Munich City government is transitioning to open-source software. The MBTA public transit agency in Boston has moved to open source.
With the Directive and studies, it's clear the U.S. government is thinking about open source and may move to it. That may be irrelevant for agencies like Department of Defense and NSA, which deal with highly secure data on a daily basis, and rightly so.