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Code ownership the key for government open source

Government owning code means government power increasing. Government owning code means the buck stops there.
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Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on

Robert Galoppini (right)  writes that the Italian Constitutional Court has ruled legal a preference for open source software by the government.

He takes the opportunity to look at the worldwide trend, and generally finds that it peaked a few years ago.

The controversy has died down a bit, but I suspect it's part of a continuing trend. And in looking forward it's not the law, and not the politics, that we should be looking at.

But that's precisely how we usually look of it.

When government uses open source, it controls its own code. When government uses proprietary software, the vendor controls the code.

This is a huge difference and there are advantages in both approaches:

  1. Government owning code means government power increasing. Those who don't like to see government power increasing may oppose such moves.
  2. Government owning code means the buck stops there. With vendor code you can blame the vendor when things go wrong. When the code is yours you can't.

I have written before that there is a  make-or-buy aspect to all this. I believe the Bush Administration has a bias toward buying, and the Obama Administration is adjusting the balance toward making. But it won't be an either-or decision. Open source will have to prove its case, in every case.

Thus this press release, covering a study of the VA's use of its VistA system over 10 years, and claiming $3 billion in savings, is significant.  It shows how the case will be made, and how it must be made, for government open source to move forward.

A non-ideological, dollars and sense, money-saving argument which is proven by subsequent events is the way forward for government open source.

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