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SF Gate: Open-Source Government

Aug 29, 2002, 22:00 (7 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Hal Plotkin)

"One thing most technology experts can agree on is that California's state government has squandered billions on ill-conceived information-technology (IT) projects in recent years. Whether it was the more than $100 million in taxpayer funds that state authorities admit were wasted on the state's automated child-support system or the more recent purchase of thousands of unneeded software licenses from Oracle, the sorry record is painfully clear. California desperately needs a more workable IT plan.

"Fortunately, in the spirit of the open-source software movement, free-software evangelist Bruce Perens has just offered a one-up. Perens has been writing and distributing free software programs since 1987. He's also the author of 'The Open Source Definition,' which originally helped popularize the term "open source." More recently, among other activities, he's been leading an effort to create standards governments can use when making IT purchases. His hope is that the recent scandals will lead to a long-overdue reappraisal of current policies and consideration of some commonsense alternatives.

"The fight over what those standards should look like is already turning into a real donnybrook. On one side, there's a group calling itself the Initiative for Software Choice, which counts Microsoft among its key members. As you might have guessed, this group argues that governments should not be required to buy any particular type of software. Suggestions that public agencies should be prohibited from purchasing closed-source software that requires annual maintenance fees, per-seat licenses or royalty payments get them especially lathered up..."

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