As we discussed in Part 3 of our blog series, while we have begun to see the development of open source communities and the launch of numerous pilot projects, a large opportunity/education gap continues to exist in much of the government acquisition community. Even with the many benefits of open source software (OSS), misconceptions of open source software persist. One of the hurdles seems to be that the government acquisition community is not as familiar with the variety of products and services as they could be.
The open source community does not generally have the marketing and sales force that accompany proprietary vendors. We are not yet seeing government market surveys and requests for information (RFIs) looking for open source solutions. Many government contracting officers still favor better-known commercial names for their software solutions.
The benefits of open source software are numerous. A principal advantage is the lower cost of ownership due to the absence of large annual licensing fees. Additionally, government organizations are free to modify the code to suit uniquely government business rules. OSS boasts enhanced security due to the large number of reviewers and the ability to immediately update code if a vulnerability is identified. The value-first culture that OSS creates where bugs are identified and fixed immediately rather than waiting for the annual commercial upgrade, translates into better service. With OSS, the advantage is clear.
So, the question remains: where should we go from here? We have made some great strides in trying out OSS, but maybe it is time to make changes to our mindset of maintaining the status quo. Perhaps we should move from a defensive position of proving why we should consider OSS, to a proactive Position of proving why we should not consider OSS—a more difficult question to answer when considering the choice and innovation open source software provides. An OSS solution exists for almost every application the government creates. We should have an acquisition force that actively seeks these out. In this time of tightening budgets, the government should fully embrace OSS and look at moving from stovepipe systems to shared communities. By doing this we will have the freedom to move to the best platform for each application, and the flexibility to customize the products to the individual application needs at the best overall value.
So, what are your thoughts? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section.
This is the fourth in my four-part series: The Open Source Advantage.
Missed a post in the Open Source Advantage series? Check out Part 1: Introduction to OSS, Part 2: OSS and Cost Savings, Part 3: Government Adoption of OSS. Don’t miss out again! Subscribe to the TurnLevel blog to receive an email when we post new material.