Open Tech Today - Top Stories

Monday, January 29, 2007

Leveraging Open Source (or Open Anything)

Declaring a commitment to open source and other open technologies is the easy part. Finding ways to actually leverage open ICT is hard, as governments are discovering.

This lesson is learned and re-learned every day, as two articles I saw today illustrated. First, a new survey in India indicated that one major challenge to growth of open source was customers convinced of its value remain unsure how to leverage open source in their organizations. This problem is directly linked to low skill levels and experience in open ICT, few incentives to explore open source options, how staff performance is measured, and a failure of leadership by senior managers.

The second story came from the Land of Kiwis where the New Zealand Open Source Society complained about the non-tender of a government software procurement. The NZ story highlights 2 major obstacle to successfully leveraging open source: (1) There is often no vendor representing an open source option, while proprietary vendors deploy armies of sales and marketing personnel; and (2) Too often tender documents (RFPs and RFIs) specify a specific vendor or product, thus totally eliminating the possiblity of any open source options.

In New Zealand, a government agency issued a tender (designed by an outside consultant) for a service provider to implement a Microsoft-based online registration system. Not an online registration system. A Microsoft-based system. Nothing against Microsoft, but governments should focus on the services they want to deliver, not forever locking themselves into one company or technology.

Wait-and-see approaches to procurement will not maximize choices, competition or value for money. Nor will they produce in open source options.

Unfortunately, old habits die hard. Service-oriented, technology-neutral procurement goes against everything that procurement officers and CIOs know or have learned. Only clear direction (and rewards) from an organization's leadership can change this.

Categories: opensource, procurement, government

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