Open Tech Today - Top Stories

Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Yin and Yang of Open Ecosystems

At this week's World Bank event on open technologies, the presentations of Microsoft, Sun and the ODF Alliance drew no blood, but did prompt an interesting dialogue on open source and other open technologies.

To begin, I held up this picture ...

and asked the audience what it was.

My answer: a heterogeneous ecosystem.

My point: all ecosystems are mixed -- your company, your agency, your household, your economy, your ICT ecosystem, and even the table of presenters at the World Bank event which included Microsoft, Sun and the ODF Alliance.

The enemy is neither open or closed technology. The enemy is lock-in. Lock-in to a vendor, format, distribution channel, device, service provider, procurement model, source of financing, licensing model or development methodology.

Technology policies and decisions should all be aimed at breaking lock-in. That is what fuels ...
  • innovation in service delivery;

  • transformation of your business;

  • competition and new business opportunities; and

  • the genius of collaboration.

Where do open technologies fit in? They are designed to break lock-in -- unlocking your services, business processes and data from the hardware and software infrastructure.

So, where to start? Procurement.

Re-visit your procurement rules and practices - how you buy technology. Whether you realize it or not, your procurement is likely limiting your choices and creating some form(s) of lock-in.

Remember -- in our globalized world, there is no such thing as standing still. You are either moving forward or falling behind.

Categories: ecosystem, opensource, WorldBank

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Open Source Debate at World Bank

When people come together to discuss open source software, it does not take long for the discussion to sharpen into a debate, especially when governments face off with vendors like Microsoft and Sun.

Yesterday the World Bank webcast an event - Open Systems for e-Government in Developing & Transition Countries. Officials from countries including Azerbaijan, Moldova, Georgia, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania participated by video conference.

While the discussion was thoughtful and cordial, the issues sharpened quickly. ODF vs. OOXML. What counts as "open" when it comes to standards. The influence of multinational IT companies in developing countries. The economic model for open source.

But the question asked most often about open source was: If I have a problem, who do I call?

The belief (or fear) that no support exists for open source software remains a major obstacle in the minds of many governments. The "no support" myth (and it is a myth) persists.

Andy Stein, Director of Technology for the City of Newport News, Virginia shared his experience finding external support for his city's open source apps. His answer: Your ICT ecosystem will include many options for support -- ranging from commercial companies and consultants to online communities and other governments. (My response is here.)

The bottom line: Open source does require an agency or enterprise to take responsibility for its IT decisions. There are many options in the market for open source products and support, but the buck stops with you.

Open source offers real value, but it is not a free ride.

Categories: opensource, WorldBank