Yes He Can (Use Open Source)


Following the change of adminstration in the US, many are hoping for a more, er, open mind to open source. Some have decided to make a direct appeal via an open letter to the President on newly-created blog (a slightly strange choice of platform).

The basic pitch is a bit obvious:

Mr. President, we believe the open-source industry is changing the world of software development in many of the ways you have promised to change American politics. The values of open source mirror those you promoted in your campaign: hope, change, and openness. We, the undersigned, sincerely hope that you will make the use of open-source software a key component of every new technology initiative the United States government enters into during your presidency.

Open-source software is really just the tip of the iceberg in changing the way the government works. We want to encourage you to find ways for states and agencies to collaborate together on solutions that ultimately are better than the sum of all the individual efforts combined and at much lower cost to each participant. Open-source software encourages this type of collaboration by making the results of previous successful efforts available to others with similar goals and needs.

The central request is as follows:

we urge you to make it mandatory to consider the source of an application solution (open or closed) as part of the government’s technology acquisition process, just as considering accessibility by the handicapped is required today (as defined by section 508).

I'm really not sure what is meant by “consider the source of an application”. Is it suggesting that closed source is OK, provided the government has access to the code? I would have thought it would have been better to request simply that open source must be considered alongside closed source, and that the playing-field must be level (no hidden requirements to support Microsoft-only formats, for example). Any thoughts?

The way the petition is framed - “We, the authors, are proud to live and work in the nation that elected you and hope your presidency will be as successful as your campaign” – suggests that only Americans can sign it, but I don't imagine they'll be checking your birth certificate if you care to add your name.