Making Government Operations More Open

Open Software Standards Throughout Government.

All government computers should run open-source, free software licensed under GPL or similar and use universal, open standards for things like file formats. First, it's more secure and cost effective -- Linux/Unix viruses cannot spread the way those written for Windows do. Second, the software used and developed will be available to everyone for scrutiny, and public input can be given in improving that software. Third, the government/public will actually OWN the software, rather than paying companies like Microsoft who retain ownership of the software on our (ie, the public's) computers.

This also means no .doc files but rather .odt files and other similar formats.


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Similar Ideas [ 4 ]


  1. Comment
    Fred Bauder

    The use of propriety software when there are suitable alternatives is inappropriate. At times, the federal government has actively aided monopoly practices that are not in the public interest. If you want to give money to political supporters, just appropriate money and send them a check.

  2. Comment

    I wish we could consolidate like ideas, because the really good ones that come up across multiple individuals are being diluted. I have voted for your idea which is fundamental.

    You may wish to look at the Open Source Agency idea which includes F/OSS as one of three big open initiatives, the other two being content and decision support (Open Source Intelligence or OSINT), and Open Spectrum as articulated so ably by David Weinberger.

  3. Comment

    The idea that the government/public will "own" open source software is silly. In fact, no one would own it. The best policy is to keep software procurement open and competitive, without mandates for one type of software or another. That way, the software can be selected that best fits the particular needs in terms of privacy, security, service, use, compatibility, and cost. By the way, open source does not necessarily mean that total costs will be lower for the taxpayers.

  4. Comment
    porklife ( Idea Submitter )

    I meant "own" in the sense that what is on your computer belongs to you, to modify and use as you see fit, as opposed to software licenses which retain ownership rights for the patent holder and come with restrictions on use (if not enforceable, they are at least symbolic). If we're talking about public ownership, we own the software on those computers.

    Your policy of competitive software procurement makes perfect sense, but doesn't necessarily lend itself to transparency if proprietary standards are adopted and kept from public view (the antithesis of this Website). Also, open and competitive software procurement seems like it would cause less compatibility as standards would change depending on the lowest bidder. If anything, compatibility issues might force the government into making choices based on ease of implementation rather than what best serves the public.

    Using Free/Open Source Software that doesn't come with the cost of license fees and with higher security standards built in (again, see my linux/unix vs. windows comparison) will also cut down on costs. It can also be customized for specific needs and uses on a per machine basis. Implementation would be expensive but, as with any smart government decision, it should be a long-term investment. Further, compatibility wouldn't be an issue if open standards were implemented across the board. On top of this, IT personnel would be hired to specialize in the range of adopted software, leaving out third party support from companies who have little/no vested interest in "the public good."

    More governments around the world are looking into this option. Massachusetts even flirted with the idea. There are clearly advantages that should be considered in developing future software policies.