Costs, culture or communism? Why governments choose open source

Governments in Europe and the US have different reasons for adopting open source and cost isn't always high on the agenda

ZDNet UK has just concluded an investigation into why some governments have embraced open source, while others have given it the cold shoulder.

The special report, published on Tuesday, examines why some countries have an almost zealous approch to open source which is driven by more than cold, hard economics — politics, culture and protectionism all have a part to play.

The UK public sector's hesitance to adopt open source is attributed by some to the lack of political support. "We've been pathetic as a nation in supporting and understanding open source. [Tony] Blair's Labour has dragged us away from it," said one analyst.

Despite leading the way in technology innovation, the United States government has hung back from adopting open source, compared with some countries in Europe. The attitude of individual states towards open source depends a lot on whether there is a senior government official championing its adoption, according to Tom Rabon, a vice-president at Linux vendor Red Hat.

The German and French governments' appetite for open source seems to be centred on a desire to encourage the local software industry with some anti-Americanism thrown into the mix. The political leaning of the outgoing left-leaning German government has also been an important factor, but support for open source could wane in the newly elected government, according Florian Mueller, a software developer and political campaigner.

As for the new European entrants, such as Poland, their attitude towards open source is unclear and industry experts differ in their predictions. While one analyst expects many Eastern European countries to opt for Microsoft as they "don't want to be seen as commies [sic]", another analyst highlights the importance of cost, which could drive the adoption of open source.

The article covers the UK, US, France, Germany, Norway, Spain and Poland/Eastern Europe.

For more on open source and Linux see the Enterprise Open Source Toolkit.