Last month I participated in the third annual CONSEGI conference in Brasília, Brazil. The first CONSEGI conference was organized in 2008, and though it was organized by and for the Brazilian government, it speaks loudly and clearly with an authentic open source voice. In that first meeting, the CONSEGI declaration stated their disappointment in the appeals by several of their ISO/IEC national bodies being dismissed by the ISO and IEC technical management boards in the Standardization of Office Open XML, and criticized the ISO/IEC for "inability to follow its own rules". The declaration called into question credibility of ISO/IEC, with the signers asserting that they will no longer consider ISO standards to be automatically valid for government use. In 2009, CONSEGI hosted the 3rd International ODF Workshop and established the Brasilia Protocol, which commits its signatories to use ODF internally, with each other, and ultimately in their electronic interaction with third parties and the public. (I was a signatory to that protocol representing Red Hat.) And so I was very excited to see what CONSEGI 2010 would set as its agenda.
The "Project Description" of CONSEGI 2010 contained this paragraph which really highlights the answer to the question "why open source?" in Brazil (or in any other Democratic government):
The citizenship vision that goes under CIT (Communication and Information Technology, aka ICT) public politics of the Federal Government has as reference the collective rights and not only the sum of the citizen individual rights.
Think about that for a moment or two...