Open Tech Today - Top Stories

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Collaboration, not code, is the key!

I say this in every presentation on the Roadmap for Open ICT Ecosystems when I discuss open source software: Collaboration, not code, is the key. Ultimately, the long-term power and impact of open source is not access to the code; it is the power of collaboration.

Yes, open source can save money. Yes, open source can give users greater control over their software. But changes in the proprietary model for software could close the gap with open source on these issues (e.g., vendors could cut costs, improve interoperability using open standards, provide controlled access to source code, or unbundle software so users don't have to buy functionality they don't need).

BUT, there is one thing that the proprietary model cannot duplicate: open collaboration. Why? Because this means giving up control, and they won't do that.

Enter open source as a model for collaboration.

Don't take my word for it. Examples are everywhere. Like . . . in Colorado. A lovely state. A few of its smallest towns may be the next hotbed for open technologies, as reported here. This is not happening in some big city with a huge IT department. It is happening in a rural, sparsely populated part of the state. Two towns and one county are building out e-government services together. By collaborating, pooling resources and development efforts, they move faster, save money and control their own destiny.

Don't believe me? Read the interview with Kent Morrison, IT Manager for the town of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. He put it very simply:

If you buy from a big company, you can get through to support people and they will answer your questions. But what if the company says it's releasing another version this year and you have migrate to it, because in another year they will abandon the previous version. You are forced to upgrade.

For example, we have a particular [proprietary] product that we have used for a couple of years. It's a fine product, but the manufacturer told us a year ago that there is a required upgrade that will cost us $15,000. I put that in the budget for 2006, but the city council says we can't afford it. The manufacturer does its best to provide support, but I'm literally running an obsolete product because I couldn't afford an upgrade.

There it is. Collaboration. Cost. Control. The keys to the kingdom that open technologies offer.

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