Updegrove: Obama should give FOSS equal treatment

ConsortiumInfo.org's Andy Updegrove urged President Obama to show more public support for free and open source software.

ConsortiumInfo.org's Andy Updegrove urged President Obama to show more public support for free and open source software.

In a blog featured on the site today, Updegrove said open source has made huge inroads in various government sectors, especially the Department of Defense,  but it's high time that the president give FOSS equal treatment top down.  

"It's time for the Obama Administration to publicly state that it whole heartedly supports FOSS procurement by the federal agencies. Not in preference to proprietary software, but on an equal basis," Updegrove wrote in his standards blog today, which was featured on the Linux Foundation site." Only by doing so can it ensure that when it comes to getting the best deal for the American public, the best software will win."

He maintains that procurement officers are still a bit timid about endorsing an open source alternative to proprietary software, and cited the case of former Massachusetts CIO Peter Quinn, a big open source backer, who resigned in 2005 after being falsely accused of using public funds for personal travel.  The travel in question? Attending open source conferences, some of which were international.

I remember covering this story as a reporter for a trade pub. Quinn and other brave Massachusetts technology execs brought OpenDocument support to the state and advocated backing open standards rather than proprietary standards for public records storage. It was a bold and daring step in 2005 but he was railroaded by lobbyists for one prominent proprietary company.

International travel to open source conferences? Duh. Most of them are international. But the public doesn't get that so the lobbyists had an easy time drumming up controversy around the issue. The good public servant took his exit after an honorable stand.

So let's get with it, Obama.  Given the economic condition of this country, it would be foolish not for procurement officers to give open source alternatives a harder look -- and not be fearful of the political ramifications of doing so.