From the Board

Happy Birthday Wikipedia!

Probably the greatest benefit of open source software is the liberty it creates to unleash innovation and the unexpected. By giving everyone four key liberties - to use the software for any purpose, to study it, to modify it and to pass it to others - software under OSI-approved licenses can be used in any way to create anything. The last twelve years since OSI was founded have seen an explosion of creativity both in the creation of software and in its use to make wonderful things happen.

The Concrete Benefits of Open Source Software

Following up on an earlier blog posting, Indian Open Standards Policy Finalized, I read an article published in the The Hindu, one of India's leading newspapers, about the concrete benefits of this policy. It also provides a very meaningful template for open source advocates to see how well an argument can be made with the proper framing of facts. Here is a quote from the third paragraph:

SCOSTA [the Smart Card Operating System for Transport Applications] was a standard developed for smart card-based driving licences and transport-related documentation by different State governments. It was developed by the National Informatics Centre in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. Despite attempts by proprietary lobbies to make the body opt for a proprietary standard, the NIC and academics went ahead and developed an open standards, one that comprised technological specifications that were entirely royalty-free, and put up the specifications on their website. By doing so, they made a huge impact on the entire market.

Indian Open Standards Policy Finalized

Venkatesh Hariharan reports:

After three years of continuous running battles, India's Department of Information Technology has finalized the national policy on Open Standards. Over the last three years, we worked with our friends in government, academic, civil society and the media to push the Indian government in favor of a policy that mandates a single, royalty-free standard. With this, India becomes another major country to join the growing open standards movement.

India's e-governance standards portal is at http://egovstandards.gov.in/ and this is the link from which you can directly read the policy document.

Of particular interest is Clause 4.1.2:

The Arc of the Moral Universe is Long...

Nearly six years ago Google launched a new project to promote and support open source software development: Google Code. Back in those days we had Intel Pentium 4 processors that ran at 533 MHz (or 800 Mhz if we were lucky), and contained 125M transistors using a 90nm process. Amit Deshpande and Dirk Riehle, working for SAP Research, uncovered evidence that in 2004 there were approximately 125M source lines of code (SLOC) of open source software in the world. Fedora Core 3 had 1652 packages, and SE Linux policies protected only 13 of them (apache , dhcpd, mailman, mysqld, named , ntpd, pegasus, portmap, postgresql, snmpd, squid, syslogd, winbind). Six years is a long time ago! At that time, Google Code did not treat all OSI-approved licenses equally. Some were definitely more equal that others. But a lot can happen in six years...

Report from CONSEGI 2010 Conference

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...

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