A petition has recently been put up on “We the People” that suggests the US government looks to expanding their use of free and open source software in an effort to cut spending. “We the People” is a section of the White House’s official website where any citizen can submit petitions and have the rest of the country vote on them. If a petition reaches it’s goal, the White House guarantees a response to the proposal.
The petition states:
The U.S. federal government is being taken advantage of by many unscrupulous software vendors who charge the government far more for proprietary software, and technical support for that software, than is warranted. There is a very large community of volunteer software coders and Free Software/Open Source based U.S. companies such as Red Hat Inc. and Google Inc. that provide far more cost effective solutions. These solutions are most often provided with the software’s source code, so the federal government will never be locked in to a single vendor or software provider. We recommend that the government appoint people of great moral character and ethics who are also familiar with Free Software to advise the government on this shift (e.g. Dr. Richard M. Stallman of Boston, MA).
Open Source Government
The use of free and open source software in government is certainly nothing new, and a number of countries have already made a strong push to replacing their proprietary systems with open source. France, Malaysia, Munich, and the People’s Republic of China have moved all or most of their government systems over to either off-the-shelf Linux distributions or their own custom distros. Most recently, Vladimir Putin signed an agreement that would move Russia over to free software by Q2 2012.
The use of free software isn’t even unheard of in the US, though for obvious reasons, Microsoft has maintained a pretty strong hold on much of the government and military systems. Notable exceptions in the US are the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Department of Defense (DoD). These departments demand the highest standards of security, stability, and transparency; so dumping Microsoft’s products was an obvious choice.
Demanding security and stability should be a priority for every branch of government, and with luck, movements like this may get us closer to that goal. But there’s still quite a way to go, as of the time of this writing, the petition on “We the People” only has 378 of the required 25,000 signatures. If the White House is to respond to this petition, it will need to get 24,622 signatures by the end of this month.
If you’d like to see an expanded use of free and open source software in the US government, be sure to sign the following petition and share this article on your favorite social networking sites to get the word out.