How much should government commit to open source?

If government is going to make a major effort in open source it has to hire some folks. The age of contracts and privitization let government pretend that extending its reach did not require this responsibility. A move toward open source will reinforce it.

The debate on open source in government has shifted.

It's no longer a question of whether, but how much.

We even have Jack Wallen of TechRepublic worrying about the health of Microsoft, should the government make a wholesale switch.

Of course it's not Microsoft he should be worrying about. It's Oracle. Let me explain.

For government open source is not just a change in license or business models. It is a cultural change.

Most agencies, like the military, see software as a good like any other, something you buy as part of a contract designed to perform a function.

Open source does not work that way. When a scaled enterprise adopts open source it becomes responsible for the code.

When you buy packaged software, in other words, you sign a tech support contract. When you commit to open source you hire contract programmers.

With code control comes responsibility. Enterprises which adopt open source understand this. They may buy support, but they also commit their own staffs to maintaining and enhancing the code base. Under the GPL and you will contribute these additions back to the community. Under a BSD license you're not under that obligation.

In either case you're acquiring code. It's no longer like buying a car. It's more like adopting a child.

If government is going to make a major effort in open source it has to hire some folks. The age of contracts and privitization let government pretend that extending its reach did not require this responsibility.

A move toward open source will reinforce it.

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