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<nettime> Linux strikes back II...
. __ . on Thu, 19 Jun 2003 16:41:47 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Linux strikes back II...

Another interesting proposal...

While this seems somehow extreme I think it would be a way to get a new
balance. Govts are the most powerful groups who "could" oppose
International companies. This proposal will also be seen very different in
Europe and the US. While in the EU Govts are still seen as protection and
written laws are a layer of this protection, this is not seen like this in
the US... problematic, but worthwile to think it through...




Topic - <http://newsforge.com/search.pl?topic=19>Advocacy 

- by <mailto:tony {AT} egovos.nospam.org>Tony Stanco -

The Center of Open Source & Government [www.egovos.org ] endorses the
South African Proposed Strategy for Using Open Source Software in the
South African Government by providing rationally defensible policy
guidelines. The South African Strategy is a reasonable road map for a
viable Open Source Government Policy for the following reasons: ap

1. Official Statement of Recognition of the Legitimacy of Open Source

Since Open Source as a policy consideration is a relatively new
phenomenon, a proper Open Source Government Policy begins with the
explicit recognition of Open Source as a legitimate software development

The South African Strategy explicitly states that Open Source software is
a legitimate alternative to proprietary software in government systems.

2. Designation of Particular Government Agency to Lead Open Source Program

A proper Open Source Government Policy provides authority and
accountability to a high level government official who is responsible for
coordination, communication and execution of the Program.

The South African Strategy designates the State IT Agency (SITA) to
provide leadership and support for government institutions wishing to
implement Open Source Software. The strategy makes provision for briefing
sessions to the public and to government agencies, publishing information
through appropriate media outlets, creating and maintaining an Open Source
government website, and making presentations at conferences.

3. Level Playing Field in Government Procurement

A government IT policy should foster a commitment to competition without,
directly or indirectly, pre-determining winners, as a result there should
be no a priori procurement preferences. However, a neutral government
procurement policy first ensures that all de facto and de jure
preferences, prejudices and discriminations are removed. Once the playing
field is leveled, purchases should be made on technical merit, giving both
proprietary and Open Source software an equal opportunity to be selected.

One prerequisite for a level playing field is the removal of existing user
lock-ins resulting from de facto proprietary standards in use in the
current IT environment. As such, governments should immediately mandate
that only products abiding by enforceable Open Standards and Open
Protocols be purchased.

Until all major IT products are produced in compliance with Open Standards
and Open Protocols, it is reasonably defensible for governments to have
policies that deviate to a limited degree from a procurement policy that
would look exclusively at technical merit. The preferred mitigating policy
is charging proprietary companies a 5-10% non-compliance fee on all
purchased products that are non complying, with the proceeds used to fund
Open Source education and software development in the country. A less
preferred policy, though still reasonably defensible, is a pre-set
set-aside of between 10-20% of the IT procurement budget that will be used
to procure Open Source products, even though strict adherence to a policy
of purchasing on technical merit would suggest that proprietary products
be purchased. The rationale for the de jure disparate treatment between
proprietary and Open Source during this transitional period is the fact
that a de facto disparate treatment currently exists th at benefits
proprietary and needs to be counter-balanced until Open Standards are

The South African Strategy requires that Open Standards are to be a
prerequisite for all software development. It also says that
discrimination and prejudice will be avoided in software procurement
procedures to give Open Source and proprietary equal opportunity to be
selected. However, the South African Strategy does not attempt to
implement an interim policy to counter-balance the current slanting of the
playing field towards proprietary until the policy goal of compliance with
Open Standards is functional in the market.

4. Appreciation of Social Value of Open Source Software

While government procurement policy should be neutral to ensure that
governments do not introduce market distortions into the world economy,
there should be an appreciation of the social benefits of fostering Open
Source software development in a proper Open Source Government Policy

These social benefits include wider access to government information by
citizens, transparency in the functioning of the software running
e-government services, ability to create an indigenous software industry,
and better education and training of local IT professionals. These are
substantial social benefits for a country that are unavailable at all or
to the same degree from the proprietary software industry.

It should be noted that some commentators maintain that the social
benefits for a country of Open Source software are so large that they
should always trump the no a priori preferences principle. The Center of
Open Source & Government cautions governments from placing the economic
principles and social principles in opposition. With Open Source software
the economic and social principles are not in competition and both are
attainable simultaneously. Placing the social benefits above the
requirement of a level playing field unnecessarily complicates public
policy and can easily introduce unwanted market distortions with negative
unintended consequences.

However, if it were proven that a level playing field were to result in an
enduring disadvantage to a country's social policies, it would be
necessary to re-visit the issue of a proper balance between the economic
and social policies. The Center of Open Source & Government currently
holds, until shown otherwise, that the economic and social policies
supplement and support each other, so artificially placing them in
opposition is needless.

The South African Strategy recognizes the educational and commercial
benefits of Open Source development and recommends that partnerships
between academic, industry and government institutions be implemented. It
also finds a clever balance between a neutral procurement policy and the
social benefits of Open Source suggesting that in circumstances where the
advantages and disadvantages of Open Source and proprietary software are
equally strong, opting for Open Source is preferable, which is sensible.

5. Phased Implementation

Given the disruptions and uncertainties inherent in moving from a
proprietary framework to an Open Source one, phasing in an Open Source
policy program is prudent to allow for piloting, education & training,
capacity building, experimentation and experience learning.

The South African Strategy begins with a Neutral Approach and progresses
through an Enabling Phase to an Aggressive Approach.


For the reasons given, The Center of Open Source & Government endorses the South African Policy Strategy.

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