Barack Obama proves the power of Open Source

It would be a bit of a stretch to claim that Barack Obama won the 2008 election because his website ran open source software while John McCain's ran on proprietary software. But what is not a stretch at all is that Barack Obama's campaign built a powerful synergy between grass-roots politics and grass-roots technology, while presenting what many consider to be the most disciplined campaign of any candidate in modern history.

That combination of synergetic innovation and single-minded discipline produced this amazing commentary from conservative commentator Alex Castellanos on CNN's election night coverage, captured here by YouTube:

For those who'd like to do their homework and understand Castellanos's sources, the book he references is The Cathedral and the Bazaar. The connection between the failing industrial model practiced by companies like Microsoft compared with the organic open source development model is detailed in a whitepaper I published in 2006 titled Software Industry vs. Software Society: Who Wins in 2020?. Who knew that we'd only have to wait two more years before the logic that paper presents would become a mainstream explanation of a mainstream shift in American culture, identity, politics, and economic potential?

Congratulations to President-elect, Barack Obama!

But Open Source has much more to deliver to this President and to the nation, in terms of reforming Washington and our Federal government. One of the strongest criticisms made against Barack Obama during his campaign is that he consistently said that he would go through the Federal budget "line-by-line" and cut wasteful spending, but he never gave any specifics. The open source-based application was implemented after Congress passed a law in 2006 saying that by the start of 2008, every government contract for every government agency (except those that are classified) had to be online, with information disclosing costs, sponsors, contractors, etc. By using open source software and an open source-friendly governance model, the program was delivered ahead of schedule and under budget. And everybody in the world can now inspect the Federal budget on a line-by-line basis.

Since we have been encouraged to participate in this great new democratic experiment, with a President who welcomes our participation, I suggest that we use this great application to help our incoming President identify some of the spending that might best be cut. It's something we can all do, and it's something that we should all do. With many eyes, all (budget) bugs are shallow...


At the Free Software and Open Source Foundation for Africa - FOSSFA we will be glad to see something in the framework of the USAspending in Africa. The Obama campaign and election was followed closely in Africa, not just for race and origin purposes, but for its model of mobilization. There are lots of lessons that Africa can learn here: in governance, ICT, OSS, transparency and political discipline, strategy and implementation.

To promote and protect open source software and communities...

For over 20 years the Open Source Initiative (OSI) has worked to raise awareness and adoption of open source software, and build bridges between open source communities of practice. As a global non-profit, the OSI champions software freedom in society through education, collaboration, and infrastructure, stewarding the Open Source Definition (OSD), and preventing abuse of the ideals and ethos inherent to the open source movement.

Open source software is made by many people and distributed under an OSD-compliant license which grants all the rights to use, study, change, and share the software in modified and unmodified form. Software freedom is essential to enabling community development of open source software.