In Praise of Government Leadership

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Matt Asay rightly points out that this story is a good demonstration of how companies can use the open source to disrupt a market:

“Previously Siemens was a wholly Microsoft house and there was no inclination to offer open source,” he says. Recently, however, Siemens identified open source as having a “very viable business case”.

With the South African government making very public declarations of interest in open source software, Honigwachs could well be on the right track. “Open source gives us a competitive advantage,” he says.

But I think there's another important lesson here: that governments play a crucial role when it comes to creating the right environment for openness to flourish. Contrast the South African government's savvy stance on open source with the pathetically ostrich-like position of our own, and it's no wonder that free software uptake in the UK lags behind those in other countries. But I suppose it's too much to expect such leadership from the UK government these days, since it's so busy elsewhere.

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