The debate about open source and open standards challenges governments to replace their rhetoric with tangible actions. Governments are gravitating toward the idea of issuing "technology neutral" policies as a starting point.
This raises two issues that most governments have yet to face: (1) What is technology neutrality? and (2) What must governments do to establish true ICT neutrality?
Neutrality (at least as rhetoric) appeals to everyone, governments and vendors alike. Few, however, have really considered what neutrality means and how to establish it.
A vigorous, open debate about technology neutrality is happening in at least one country -- Malaysia -- as evidenced by a recent opinion piece in its largest english-language newspaper the New Straits Times.
The second challenge -- creating genuine ICT neutrality -- is harder. Passive policymaking is not enough. As governments are learning, a "wait and see" approach produces endless waiting and little seeing.
As blogger here recently, the City of Amsterdam (and 8 other cities in the Netherlands) are waiting no longer. They signed a "Manifesto for Open Source in Government," committing themselves to exploring the use of open ICT. Amsterdam's City Council just announced that an initial test in the use of open standards and open source will begin in early 2007.
Do not be fooled by rhetoric, from governments or vendors. It matters less if someone uses the words "neutrality" or "manifesto." The only thing that counts is whether there are more choices in ICT procurement, whether vendor lock-in is eliminated, and who controls your data, documents and ICT decisions. Open is as open does.
Categories: OpenSource, ICTneutrality, Netherlands, Malaysia, government