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Business - Written by on Thursday, August 28, 2008 17:20 - 4 Comments

Forcing Governments to use Open Source

Bravo to Quebec’s open source software association for suing the provincial government for not tendering software purchases. Turns out the government used a rule that allows them to avoid tenders when there is only one option (in this case, Microsoft). I guess no one told them about the other options, you know, the free ones.

This brings up some interesting questions. Whose responsibility is it to submit a tender bid for open source? Do governments have the responsibility to consider it even without a bid? And can governments really justify spending a lot of money on things they can get for free (even if the free version has an interface that is intimidating to white-haired public servants)?

But more importantly, governments are missing a tremendous opportunity by ignoring open source. Imagine if even a fraction of the millions of dollars most governments spend on proprietary software was spent on open source initiatives. First of all, the software would become far more customized towards what government needs. Second, rather than funneling tax payer money to one company, it would be an investment for every company in the economy. Third, it would create skilled jobs. Fourth, it would help create the critical mass necessary for open source to overtake proprietary software: something that would benefit the entire economy.

As citizens, I say we start demanding that our governments leverage open source software to save money and invest in our economy.


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Aug 28, 2008 21:20


I’ve been trying to get the commands and organizations within DoD to embrace open-source for years! At times it feels like an impossible battle… THEY WON’T EVEN LET US USE FIREFOX!!! I have IE6 and MS Office 2003 at work.

The media totes Intellipedia being a huge improvement within the government – which it has been – but the paradigms are still the same… stovepipes! Just this week, the command I am contracted to announced another blog within the confines of the organizations firewall. We’re not even sharing efficiently with our counterparts within DoD.

Please excuse the venting of a frustrated collaboration consultant and social software evangelist. Is there any hope?!?

Aug 29, 2008 10:49

While I can certainly see the large benefits of switching to open source platforms, there are problems involved with switching. Microsoft gives governments extensive enterprise licensing deals when they use Windows along with Office along with Outlook along with …

There is considerable re-training time to consider when moving Administrative Assistants and even less technically-inclined employees to a new software system. Also, products delivered by Microsoft systems are more readily accepted by the general public. This is not to say that the long term cost benefits of open source aren’t viable, I’m just playing Devil’s Advocate.

IM2 | OQP » Qu’est-ce qu’un appel d’offre en informatique libre ?
Sep 1, 2008 11:18

[...] no-bid Microsoft contractshttp://blogs.zdnet.com/open-source/?p=2835Public policy and open sourcehttp://www.wikinomics.com/blog/index.php/2008/08/28/forcing-governments-to-use-open-source/Forcing Governments to use Open [...]

Cole M
Apr 15, 2009 17:14


I find it hard not to agree with everything you said in your post. It is frustrating, to say the least, that open source was not even considered an option. It scares me that the people make decisions on our behalf, or just making decisions in general, are not considering all of their options.

Cost aside, you hit the nail on the head with your comment about customized versions of the software. I have been a Linux user and open source advocate for a few years now and it is unbelievably easy for a technology-savvy person to customize software packages that can be deployed on any platform. It is important to take Shaun’s comment on retraining seriously as this is probably the biggest problem in making the switch, but informing employees of the benefits is step one.

In order to induce change, rewarding departments for switching to open source could be a useful avenue. Keep in mind that open source does not mean no cost as there will be training and installation costs, but as time moves forward the benefits will far outweigh the money paid out. I look forward to seeing what action, across government organizations, occurs due to this suit.

Great writeup Will!

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