Open Source As Policy
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A draft study released this week by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) looks at the various policies and legislation being considered by various levels of government around the globe.
The 33-page document provides an exhaustive list of various initiatives and their current status. More than 45 nations have had some level of public-policy initiatives or discussion about open source according to the report. However, the report's authors note that, "slightly more than half of the initiatives never went beyond the proposal stage."
The report also found that in the cases where there was an approved policy or initiative, there was little tangible action toward an actual migration. There were no limitations or requirements to use open source software in more than 80 percent of cases, even though the approved policies either encouraged or expressed a preference for open source software.
Perhaps even more indicative of the seeming lack of concrete policies to enforce open source migration, the report found that even in the cases where governments actually mandated the use of open source, none of them have been "entered into force." Furthermore no government has forbidden the use of non-open source proprietary products so far according to this study.
In the CSIS report's view, what all of these initiatives have done is to essentially produce a "technological neutrality."
"The outcome of these efforts is neither a ban on proprietary software nor an endorsement of OS products as innately superior," the report states.
The report also notes that one of the reasons governments consider open source in the first place is a desire to reduce cost and to encourage a local indigenous software industry.
Government adoption of open source and Linux around the globe has been a bit of a mixed bag. Munich, Germany, the poster child for government Linux adoption in Europe, recently hit a bump on its road to adoption with concerns over software patents. In Asia, the nascent Asianux Linux distribution, which has ties to the Chinese government, seems to be building momentum in the Asian market. The Chinese government also uses Linux in part of its rail system operations. In Brazil, IBM has been helping with the Linux push by opening an open source consultancy in the region to help facilitate migration and adoption.
The United Nations has also gotten into the game with its own agency that exists to help promote the use of open source software. And in the United States, California has recently been holding hearings with open source advocates.