FAQ

What is the Open Source for America ?

Open Source for America (OSfA) is an effort to raise awareness in the U.S. Federal Government about the benefits of open source software. We hope to encourage the government’s utilization of open source software participation in open source software projects, and incorporation of open source community dynamics to enable transparency.

How did Open Source for America get started?

This year, there have been widely publicized initiatives at the federal level this year around openness, transparency, and collaboration. Not long after President Obama signed his transparency memorandum, some of the members of what is now Open Source for America discussed that the new Administration seemed interested in technologies that could improve the government’s efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency. As open source advocates, we felt that now was the time to launch a new coalition to help our new technology leaders in the government sector embrace open source software. Open Source for America grew out of those discussions.

Is Open Source for America a lobbying organization?

No. We are a coalition of companies, academic institutions, communities, related groups, and individuals that includes registered lobbyists among its members.

Is Open Source for America a legal entity?

Not at this point.

How is Open Source for America funded?

At this point, by voluntary contributions of some of its members. This could evolve.

How does my organization get involved in Open Source for America?

By going to our website and signing onto the application. This application includes a pledge of support to 4 principles.

Are you urging the government to favor open source over proprietary software?

No. We do not believe that the government should favor one type of technology over another. All we are asking is that government agencies consider open source software on an equal basis with proprietary software when choosing technology solutions.

What is open source?

Open source is a collaborative development method for software that harnesses the power of distributed peer review and transparency of process to develop code that is freely accessible. Open source draws on an ecosystem of thousands of developers to drive innovation. The fundamental philosophy of open source developers is that the power of collective thinking is greater than that of the individual.

What is open source software?

Open source software is software made available under an Open Source Initiative Approved License. The Open Source Initiative (OSI) is a non-profit corporation formed to educate about and advocate for the benefits of open source and to build bridges among different constituencies in the open-source community. The OSI Approved License trademark and program has created a nexus of trust around which developers, users, corporations and governments can organize open-source cooperation.

What is the difference between open source software and free software?

Open source software and free software are different terms for software which comes with certain rights, or freedoms, for the user. Both generally describe the same type of software, but the terms serve to distinguish the philosophies of the developers. “Free software, as defined by the Free Software Foundation, is preferred by advocates who wish to emphasize the users’ freedoms to copy, modify, and redistribute the code. “Open source, as defined by the Open Source Initiative, highlights that the source code is viewable to all, and that high-quality software is developed as a result. Open Source for America uses the terms “open source software, “free and open source software, and “free software interchangeably to refer to software that respects the principles of the Free Software Foundation and the Open Source Initiative.

What does the market look like for open source software?

We believe the market for open source software is very good. Gartner recently estimated by 2011 more than 25 percent of government vertical, domain-specific applications will either be open source, contain open source application components or be developed as community source. Recent studies have shown that greater government adoption can lower costs of IT deployment.

Where is Open Source for America based?

Although based in Washington, D.C. for its proximity to government leaders, the coalition uses technology to connect members from across the United States.

What do you anticipate as being your principal activities?

During the first few months, we’re focusing on developing an effective messaging strategy aimed at federal government leaders. We anticipate organizing events which bring open source advocates in contact with federal government decision makers, cultivating relationships with policy experts and organizations to develop thought leadership around open source software, and developing tools which enable grassroots communities to engage with political leaders about the open source message.

What is the history of open source in government?

In 2004, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, issued a memorandum, M-04-16, which called on all federal agencies in the nation to exercise the same procurement procedures for open source software as they would for commercial software. Since then, open source software adoption has grown with agencies from the U.S. Navy, Federal Aviation Administration, Census Bureau to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and many more.

What are other governments around the world doing in open source adoption?

Other governments worldwide (Europe, Brazil, India, and a number of others) are also adopting open source technologies. The Georgia Institute of Technology validated the global growth of open source in government through its recently published Open Source Index, a study comparing and contrasting global open source activity and environment which ranked growth of open source across government in 75 countries.

In recent months, the government in the United Kingdom launched a new strategy for use of open source in national agencies. The strategy encourages the use of open standards and open source; requires revision of procurement policies to make open source the equal of other options; and encourages re-use of developed code for example, by open sourcing government solutions.