“This Government Needs a Tune-Up”

The first time I met Deborah Bryant was two years ago at the last Boston LinuxWorld. A bunch of people had rolled into an Irish restaurant one night, and she was sitting across from me and John Weathersby of Open Source Software Institute.

If you’ve ever met John, you know that he is a fierce and dedicated open source advocate. Nonetheless, his capacity for BS is equally huge, and that night over drinks, he regaled the group with one jibe and tale after another. Deb, I recall, was not impressed, and called him on it quite a few times.

I was dutifully impressed.

In between the raucous discussions, I learned that was the Public Sector Communities Manager for the Open Source Labs at Oregon State University. More specifically, she was then in the process of organizing the first Government Open Source Conference (GOSCON).

I wasn’t able to attend that first show, nor the second, but I am pleased to be able to zip out to Portland next week for the third version of this really unique conference.

To be held on Oct. 15 and 16 at the Hilton Portland & Executive Tower in Portland, the two-day show is designed to cater to government decision makers: procurement managers, CIOs, managers, and the like. The idea is not to educate attendees on the technical whys and wherefores of open source, but on the benefits and concepts of open source software itself.

More specifically, this year’s topic is going to be on interoperability and open standards, which is pretty timely given the latest hooplah on ODF/OOXML and the Microsoft/Novell deal.

I spoke with Deborah last week and learned more about the particulars of the show. Interestingly, the makeup of the attendees is currently comprised of more state government workers than Federal, with a smattering of international participants.

Government Sector breakdown:

State Government: 52%

National Government: 28%

Local Government: 20%

Right now, the conference’s attendance roster has 10 US states represented, and seven international delegates, including the Open Source Resource Center managers from Japan and Pakistan and the CTO of Sri Lanka.

Deborah has watched the show grow more in scope over the years, as more government agencies approach open source not so much from a “how much money will it save me” (though that’s still a big part of the equation) to more of a “how will it benefit my IT organization?” Getting those questions answered is a big reason behind holding the conference in the first place.

That’s why the conference will be big on sessions with long breaks in-between, Deborah told me. To get those questions answered.

If you are in the Pacific Northwest and play a role in public IT policy or implementation, I urge you to get this show in your calendar now.

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