Government Use and Participation in Open Source

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Submitted by jparker 2010-05-20 11:19:28 EDT

Theme: Building Digital Skills
Idea Status: +66 | Total Votes: 78 | Comments: 10

The government should redirect all funds currently spent on shrinkwrap software licenses towards: training on, adoption of and participation in open source software projects.

A government group (within Industry Canada such as GTIS?) needs to take responsibility for the lead in adoption of open source in government. This group would create training materials, best practices, and documentation to assist all departments to adopt open source in all areas.

A further level of active participation in any project of any use to government or industry should be established. Programmers from all departments should be encouraged to participate at 10%-20% of their paid time (similar to Google's employee policy) in the sanctioned project of their choice. Specialists in each area should be established as a stakeholder in these projects, to ensure needs are being met.

This would see a rapid uptake in open-source use and expertise in Canada, with a corresponding blossoming of new projects and new commercial ventures based on them.


dsanden — 2010-05-20 17:50:14 EDT wrote

Problem with opensource: security. It's too easy for an opensource contributor from North Korea or Communist China to slip in a few lines to pull a virus in. So keep it on quarantined computers.

infzy — 2010-05-21 01:39:54 EDT wrote

dsanden: "opensource" means that the software's code is publicly viewable, and that its licensing allows the work to be modified and/or redistributed. It does NOT mean that anyone in the world has access to modify the central repository of the software. Anyone can create their own version on their own computer, but the government's official version of the code is controlled.

One of the 'advantages' of open-source is security; anyone in the world can inspect the code to make sure that it is correct, and that no contributions are suspicious. When the government pays for closed-source software, there is no accountability that the code is correct; the government can't even determine this for itself, as the purchaser. When public dollars go torwards the creation of custom software, the public should receive full rights to it. This includes the ability for the government to ensure that it's correct, and build off the software in the case that the original creator terminates its development or support.

R — 2010-06-02 22:58:31 EDT wrote

As infzy said, with more eyes to verify and look at the code from within and outside the main organisation, FOSS is a much better model for security as any encryption expert will tell you.

As for the original idea, bravo, really!
This would be totally awesome for Canadian's economy and its ability to shine here and abroad.

Canada's Digital Economy Strategy: Two quick actions you can take — — 2010-06-18 18:48:53 EDT wrote

[…] Government Use and Participation in Open Source — A call for government to save taxpayers money by engaging with and leveraging the opportunity of open source software […]

amendt — 2010-06-20 19:31:53 EDT wrote

As someone who had to redo the work I did with Imagen Technologies proprietary fractal compression software (send images over phone lines in real time) I kept looking for a way to exchange ideas without the risk of someone yanking the technology out from under my feet. In 2004 I came across GNU Linux and now I don't have to worry about a company suing the technology out from under you while the Business Software Alliance does "really" nothing to stop China from using your IP thereby making you non competitive on a global stage. With Google backing WebM there is no reason why every Canadian website can't be html5 compliant in a few years. Gone will be Microsoft's plan of Embrace, Extend and Extinguish other digital ideas. Amendt

Craig.Sellars — 2010-06-21 09:04:58 EDT wrote

Similar thoughts: Build the Foundation for All

The government must be committed to developing infrastructure for all its citizens and play a role on the world stage. Development and contribution by the G of C to open source software is the same thing.

Opening Up Canada's Digital Economy Strategy — 2010-06-21 16:00:40 EDT wrote

[…] Third, the strategy could enhance support for open source software, with a clear government mandate to level the playing field between proprietary and open source software.  Earlier this month, a Quebec court ruled that the provincial government violated the law when it purchased software from Microsoft without considering offers from other vendors.  The federal government has some policies on point, but more can be done to encourage open source software adoption for the benefit of taxpayers and technological development in Canada. [open source proposal at consult site here] […]

colan — 2010-06-23 00:11:19 EDT wrote

See our response to Canada's Request for Information (RFI) on this topic over at Wiki for PWGSC RFI PW-$$EE-015-18733.

bri — 2010-06-25 07:46:51 EDT wrote

I'm always a bit leery about using software published by individuals who merely mimic the research and development that other, private businesses have spent years to create and perfect. I point to Adobe Creative Suite software as example — the Adobe team employed professional designers, photographers, and typographers because they had the knowledge and understanding of what graphic art and publication industry practitioners really need. This to me is the essence of entrepreneurship — the free thinking, capitalistic, highly profit motivated attitudes that most western society governments encourage from their business community. When open source publishers start to dedicate their own funds to R&D — I may reconsider.

XenosNS — 2010-07-07 11:06:59 EDT wrote

Bri: You're applying the development model of a proprietary company to open source development, it's not the same usually. Open source usually is decentralized development, where volunteers contribute to portions of the project that interest them. They develop the tool they want to use, then share it with everyone. It's different then a company developing a product to sell and adding feature after feature to it.

I believe this is open source's strength. Consider this, who will build a better product, people who are paid to do so but may not have any real passion for the product, or people who develop it for free because they really do care how it works as they use it themselves, for work or personal use.

Open source doesn't need R&D departments because if someone wants a feature that isn't in a open source product, they can add it themselves to work the way they want it to. Then that development is shared with everyone.

With proprietary products, we so often see businesses having to change their business procedures to fit the tool they purchased. With open source, it can be the opposite, where a business or other organization can fit the tool to their own needs without having to reinvent the wheel to do so. If you asked a proprietary development company to adjust a product for you, they'd either charge you a fortune to do it, or just say no if it's not in their business interests.


The public consultation period ended on July 13, 2010, at which time this website was closed to additional comments and submissions.

Between May 10 and July 13, more than 2010 Canadian individuals and organizations registered to share their ideas and submissions. You can read their contributions—and the comments from other users—in the Submissions Area and the Idea Forum.

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