October 13, 2010, 3:20 PM — With the US mid-term elections coming up, the direction of the US government may be set to maintain its current direction, or change significantly, depending on who wins what election on Nov. 2.
Whether you think a change (or lack thereof) is a good thing or a bad thing, one direction many governments are trending towards in this economy is the use of open source.
Faced with budget tightening and cost-control measures that threaten to deplete government services to beyond the bare minimum, local, state, and Federal organizations are taking a very hard look at the cost and performance benefits of open source software--to the point where it's not a question of if governments will widely adopt open source technologies, but when.
There is still the learning curve to surmount, however, which is why events like GOSCON are so important to getting new and existing government software adopters up to speed.
I will admit it--I have a soft spot for this conference, which this year is happening Oct. 27-28 in Portland, Oregon. The reason is two-fold: no matter what your political stripe, most people would agree that overspending on proprietary software when a perfectly good open source alternative is at hand would be, well, stupid.
Not that anyone's every called the government that, I'm sure.
The second reason is the team of organizers of GOSCON from Oregon State University, led by GOSCON Director Deborah Bryant. Bryant, who is also the Public Sector Communities Manager at OSU's Open Source Lab, is incredibly passionate about the role open source can play in government. Bryant has gone toe-to-toe with government leaders and managers to get her points across, and GOSCON is the result of Bryant's steady belief in the benefits of open in government.
GOSCON itself has expanded as time has gone by, adding new tracks and programs. This year will include and Executive Open Data Round table that will gather state, city and federal leadership together to discuss the technological challenges they face. An Open Data Summit will gather government, civic, and technology interests to collaborate on the issue of standards.
These programs, and the rest of the sessions and speakers at GOSCON, will illustrate the real impact open source can play within an organization. There's no sugar coating here: one of the best parts of this conference is that, while everybody is typically leaning towards open source, participants are very honest about what does and does not work with open source in their experience.
That kind of honesty is perhaps surprising coming from a government context, but these are the people that are actually getting things done, not the politicians.
Public IT managers should make a point to try to attend this year's show and find out exactly how open source can be put to good use for their constituents.