Category Archives: News

OSFA Awards!

Congrats to our latest OSFA Award winners who have demonstrated their great commitment to use of open source by the federal government.

Organizational winners are: Office of the Federal Register for the Federal Register 2.0 project and OWASP, the Open Web Application Security Project.

Individual winners are Kane McLean and Alan Cudmore.

To read more about our winners, click here.

What’s Ahead for Open Source in Government?

(originally published at opensource.com.  Republished with permission.  http://opensource.com/government/13/9/trends-open-source-government-2013)

It’s a relatively quiet time for most governments around the world right now. Typically, during this time there are few new initiatives, policies, or announcements related to open source.

So, it’s a good time to consider the trends of the first half of the year and ponder what the remainder of this calendar year holds.

Here are a few that come to mind.

Open Source will continue to be the ‘go to’ approach for governments around the world facing budget constraints amid growing demand for innovative services and citizen engagement.

I speak regularly about the trends in government open source and one of my consistent themes is that the ‘wind is behind’ the take up of open source for government missions.

More than 40 governments, by my conservative count, have policies that create a positive environment for open source use.

These policies are important to level the playing field: on the one hand highlighting the benefits of open source to governments (saying ‘it’s ok to use it’) as well as providing meaningful answers to commonly asked questions by government IT professionals.

The more potent driver toward open source software utilization, I’ve come to realize in recent years, is the fundamental shift in IT architecture, away from coupled hardware, software, and data to more modularity, reuse, and a central focus on interoperability—all of which is enhanced by tigher government IT budgets and the goal of avoiding vendor lock-in.

More recently, open source use has grown with the rise of high profile ‘digital agendas’. As a means of enhancing civic engagement, governments are using community-powered innovation to build open data and digital services platforms that are almost entirely built on open software and applications. We may truly be on the verge of the ‘citizen CIO’.

Increasingly, governments are wrestling with the ‘how tos’ of open source choices; not ‘whether’ to use it.

As broader acceptance of open source grows, governments are seeking to understand how to grasp the broad array of open source offerings that are available.

Their challenge has grown as governments move beyond use of open source in traditional server environments. Today, the cloud, big data, and mobile—which are heavily enabled by open source—are driving IT strategies. They make the question of How? especially acute: How do I take advantage of all this innovation, while still ensuring long-term reliability and consistency with my procurement goals?

To start, it’s important to understand the differences. There are OSS products which have commercial support from firms with proven track records of service and integrity. There are also “insourced” projects where agencies share software with each other, but not with the private sector. Finally, some agencies download community (also known as “freebie”) projects without any commercial support.

If government IT professionals rely solely on ad hoc rules or seat-of-the pants judgement, this exposes government agencies to significant risk that is not, at present, properly documented or understood:

  • There are distinct risks associated with choosing a “freebie/insourced” model for use of open source software. In particular, community/freebie projects or “insourced” projects are likely to lack key security certifications, regular updates, support from third-party vendors, and interoperability with your critical applications.
  • Relying on ‘freebie/insourced’ open source software effectively means a strategy of relying on internal support for critical mission which is unknown territory and potentially expensive, given the difficulty of obtaining and retaining qualified IT and management personnel.
  • We could see a repeat of the failures and long-term costs associated with ‘government-off-the-shelf’ (GOTS) solutions. Although the projects may be, technically, commercial items as generally understood by governments, they present the same risks and economic liabilities as government-off-the-shelf software.

On-going policy discussions will continue about ensuring an ‘open’ cloud.

In a recent opensource.com post, long-time open source advocate Georg Greve writes of the ‘storm triggered in the cloud’ by recent disclosures of access by intelligence agencies (US and others).

The challenge for open source software advocates is to continue to press for ‘openness’ in the infrastructure and implementation of open source, even as the critical issues of access to information is sorted through.

It won’t be easy. Even prior to these disclosures, it was becoming clear that government initiatives on the cloud were testing the community’s ability to maintain ‘openness’ in implementation of those strategies, even where there were long-standing public commitment to open source and open standards. Some have even spoken of the prospect of a forthcoming ‘cloud war’ between Europe and the US, which would undermine even basic efforts to promote open source cloud offerings globally.

That’s my quick take at the rest of 2013. What are your thoughts?

22 Years Ago Torvalds Sent the Email That Started Linux

What started as an idea for an interesting project 22 years ago was kicked off by a single email from Linus Torvalds – https://www.linux.com/news/software/linux-kernel/734956-linuss-famous-email

To: Newsgroups: comp.os.inix
Subject: What would you like to see most in minix?
Summary: small poll for my new operating system
Message-ID:

Hello everybody out there using minix — I’m doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won’t be big and professional like gnu) for 386 (486) AT clones. This has been brewing since april, and is starting to get ready. I’d like any feedback on things people like/dislike in minix, as my OS resembles it somewhat (same physical layout of the file-system (due to practical reasons) among other things).

I’ve currently ported bash (1.08) and gcc (1.40), and things seem to work. This implies that I’ll get something practical within a few months, and I’d like to know what features most people would want. Any suggestions are welcome, but I won’t promise I’ll implement them :-).

Linus (mailto: torvalds@klaava.helsinki.fi)

PS. Yes — it’s free of any minix code, and it has a multi-threaded fs. It is NOT protable (uses 386 task switching etc), and it probably never will support anything other than AT-harddisks, as that’s all I have :-(.

Using Open Source to Fight Fraud

In her June 04, 2013 article, Fixing welfare fraud requires technology reform, Melissa Threadgill of the Boston Globe calls on Big Data and Open Source Software and Open Standards to fight fraud.

“This is why state government needs to dramatically rethink its approach. Big, expensive, proprietary systems need to be replaced with off-the-shelf, open-source programs that can easily be adapted and updated with the latest technology. State agencies should adopt common data standards, preferably in concert with the federal government, to make data-sharing between agencies easier, and they should prioritize operating on platforms that can easily communicate.”

Threadgill cites Kansas and California as examples of using Open Source wins in the fight against fraud. “Kansas increased legislative transparency, improved Web functionality for citizens and lawmakers, and saved over $850,000 a year by moving to an open-source, cloud-based system.” Threadgill noted that since California built, “a new integrated computer network through a combination of off-the-shelf systems and open-source software, the California Department of Child Support Services increased performance, improved data quality, and reduced operating costs.” Both are big successes for the citizens of Kansas and California enabled by Open Source.

Read Threadgill’s full story at bostonglobe.com

DC Metro Open Source Community Summit May 10, 2013

The Open Source Initiative (OSI) is hosting the non-profit DC Metro Open Source Community Summit, to be held in Washington, DC on May 10th, 2013.  The program will include short sessions by community notables and an “unconference” format for maximum attendee participation, collaboration, and learning.
Open source community and user group leadership, open source project leads, committers and developers, non-profit foundations, open data engineers and others with an interest in learning more about growing and sustaining open source should attend.  Registration is free to government employees, $20 to non, and includes lunch.
Program details and registration information is available at the event web site.
Event sponsors underwriting the non-profit event include Google, Eclipse Foundation, Red Hat, GitHub, Georgia Tech Research Institute, and MIL-OSS.

OSI Hosts Open Source License Clinic

The non-profit steward Open Source Initiative (OSI) will also host the DC Metro Open Source Community Summit on May 10th, 2013 The program will include short sessions by an international collection of OSI board members and an “unconference” format for maximum attendee participation, collaboration, and learning. Open source community and user group leadership, open source project leads, committers and developers, non-profit foundations, open data engineers and others with an interest in learning more about growing and sustaining open source are invited to attend and participate.

The OSI will host a small open source license clinic as part of its non-profit educational mission, in collaboration with federal agency participants and the Washington D.C. technology community The clinic is designed as a cross-industry, cross-community workshop for legal, contract, acquisition and program professionals who wish to deepen their understanding of open source software licenses, and raise their proficiency to better serve their organizations objectives as well as identify problems which may be unique to government.

Registration is free to government employees, $20 to non. Program details and registration information is available at the event web site at http://opensourcecommunitysummit.org. Event sponsors helping underwrite the non-profit event include Google, Eclipse Foundation, Red Hat, GitHub, Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), and MIL-OSS. Labor for producing the summit has been donated by The Open Bastion, along with the efforts of local volunteers and OSI board members to organize the Summit’s program.

Register Here