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Impact of Open Source License in Government

Open source is defined particularly by its license and that license and those terms of use has very interesting effects.

It enables software reuse and this resonates with what the government is trying to do with its ICT strategy, as I previously discussed in my post yesterday “How government can spend less money on IT investments“.

The Impact of Open Source License in Government

  • It enables innovation.

It gives you flexibility to change, to integrate, to cut code if you wanted to.

  • Enables low cost to entry. The price is zero or low – where you can access the software for free.

Yes, you can download and try open source softwares for free, but it is also important to be honest that this may not be the case all the time. With open source softwares, you would have to pay for support if you want it, due to the nature of how open source software companies work. Their business model makes profit by providing you with enterprise level support.

But its still very important to know that you can access the software for free because it allows you to experiment, to play, that means that the cost of experimenting and possibly even failing is low. And you still have the open source software community there to help you.

  • The cost of experimenting and prototyping shouldn’t be high.
  • Because open source is open in its nature, there’s rarely a monopoly on the software.

There’s little commercial incentive to hide stuff about it, unlike proprietary softwares.

  1. You CAN understand where the bugs are.
  2. You CAN understand where the security vulnerabilities are.

There’s no real genuine disadvantage to doing that.

There’s some contrast there with some commercial organizations. They possibly want their software to appear in the best light and that doesn’t sit well with how we manage our systems these days. Everything is in real-time, and that includes problems and solutions. If we do not know where something has gone wrong, how can we know how to fix it? We need that transparency.

  • Another effect of not having a monopoly on the supply chain is that you have competition. 

And this means, you have choice.  Customers will have competing suppliers that keeps them honest and competitive.

  • Open source grows in a evolutionary way making it easier for innovation to happen

There is a momentum behind it. People want to fix bugs so people will be able to use it. In contrast to proprietary softwares that sometimes are developed for marketing purposes, that may succumb to what is popular in the market and not what is needed by your organization. You’re not paying for marketing features or unwanted add-ons that may look good but not necessary for what you need. That’s the eye-opening contrast between the two worlds of closed innovation and an open one.

  • There will be spread in the market that we work with in government IT.

That means we have to lower the barrier to entry to those who we haven’t been so opened to, SMEs, volunteers, civic minded developers, other sectors.

The bottom line is, it is easier to work with open source than not.

Open Source in Social Networking

Because my roots is social media, I couldn’t sign off without giving a little something back to it. So here is a list of open source social networking softwares that you could download for free and implement in your organization to encourage collaboration and use of social media internally.

  1. Buddy Press – Social networking, in a box. Everything you need to start your own self-hosted and WordPress-powered social network!
  2. Dolphin – open-source, downloadable, scalable, customizable, full-featured, independent and free software package for building social networks, dating sites and niche communities. Dolphin is the only “all-in-one” bundle of PHP community scripts, Flash plugins, Adobe AIR and Mobile apps that provide full control, freedom and flexibility.
  3. Lovd By Less – Built with Ruby on Rails, Lovd is an open source social networking platform that has everything you need to build your very own online community. The world doesn’t need another MySpace or Facebook, but many niche sites can benefit from increased social interaction. Less Everything built the app for their clients, but released it to the public for free hoping others would benefit from it as well.
  4. Anahitapolis – a developer friendly and open source social networking platform and framework that helps you build the foundations of your apps and services in less time using a correct nodes-graphs-storiesarchitecture.
  5. Elgg – an award-winning social networking engine, delivering the building blocks that enable businesses, schools, universities and associations to create their own fully-featured social networks and applications
  6. Xoops – XOOPS is a web application platform written in PHP for the MySQL database. Its object orientation makes it an ideal tool for developing small or large community websites, intra company and corporate portals, weblogs and much more.
  7. Mahara  – Mahara is a stand-alone system that can be integrated into a wider virtual learning framework. Unlike some pundits, we believe the Learning Management System remains a highly useful application for delivering learning. We also believe the overall environment can be enhanced and complemented by a learner-centred personal learning environment such as Mahara.

Hope you’ve found this useful.

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About Liz Azyan

Liz is a CREATIVE digital professional dedicated to helping individuals, governments and businesses realize their digital goals. She offers digital consultancy services on her website LizAzyan.com Liz is also a Google Fellowship Recipient (individuals selected based on their work and initiative in the arenas of technology, politics and social entrepreneurship), an invited expert panel on the Guardian’s Public Leader Network and has spoken at many public events and conferences on the subject of digital engagement.