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Open Source for America Kicks Off with Broad Support

Open-source software continues to make inroads into the federal government, and a new organization to promote open-source applications has been established.

Open Source for America is a coalition of more than 50 companies, academic institutions, communities of interest and related groups that will advocate for greater acceptance of the use of open-source software in government information technology systems.

Open Source for America will work to change policies and practices to allow the federal government to better utilize these technologies; coordinate with communities to collaborate with the government on technology requirements; and raise awareness and create understanding among government leaders about the values and implications of open-source software.

“Open-source software can help deliver improved government service plain and simple, and the [Obama] administration recognizes this more than any in our nation’s history,” said David Thomas, principal with Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti and spokesman for the Open Source for America campaign.

Moving to open source could save the government billions of dollars, make government IT deployment more secure and faster to deploy with greater privacy and the ability to eliminate vendor lock-in, Thomas added. Gartner Research recently estimated that, by 2011, more than 25 percent of government vertical, domain-specific applications will either be open source, contain open-source application components or be developed as community source.

Several agencies already are using open-source applications, with the most recent being the U.S. Postal Service. Other agencies that have put open-source software to work include:

  • The Homeland Security Department, which is funding a program that will help federal, state and local agencies better understand their options for using open-source software.
  • The Defense Information Systems Agency, which is planning to open source a suite of programs that it developed for administrative tasks. The agency has signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the Open Source Software Institute to help release the source code of the programs.
  • The Defense Department, which launched the Forge.mil Web site earlier this year for developers to work on open-source software projects specifically for DOD.
  • NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, which has established a Web site for open-source projects developed by center personnel for mission needs.

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