Open Source in Government

Attended an interesting meeting today… it was a workshop / symposium thing that is part of a series on the use of open source in government held at the National Science Foundation.

These workshops have been going for five years and started when no open source could be used in government settings and have seen things change to where at least the LAMP stack is beginning to see some acceptance.

Government has real issues with proprietary software lock in, high costs, etc. but is struggling to accept the utility and safety of using open source because of a mixture of embedded culture, massive beauracracy, and legitimate and complex security concerns.

Dave Wheeler led a discussion on FS/OSS and how it compares security-wise to proprietary software. He made reference to the Saltzer / Schroeder paper and his key point was roughly as expected, that open methods provide greater visibilty, and consequently better quality. He contends that the open trusted repository is key. He backed it up with some numbers which you can find here.

Non attributed loosely quoted quote of the day “Open source software would be much more acceptable if it came with well defined requirements that would allow the source to be the subject of a formal proof.”

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