Thursday, January 22, 2009

An odd choice to help government with open source strategy

In an effort to reduce rising government IT costs, the Obama administration could turn to open source software. Sun cofounder and former CEO Scott McNealy says that the Obama administration has asked him to prepare a paper that will address this topic and provide guidance on potential open source adoption strategies.

There are many ways that state and federal governments can save money by adopting open source software; large-scale Linux deployments in public schools in the United States have been highly successful, for instance. Overseas, foreign governments are bringing down IT costs by migrating technical infrastructure in government facilities. In addition to helping cut costs, open technologies also increase interoperability and give IT departments more flexibility in how they use and manage software.

Right man for the job?

Although Obama's interest in open source looks like a promising sign that the incoming government is serious about reforming federal IT procurement policies, the decision to call on Sun's eccentric cofounder is an incomprehensible twist. McNealy's long history of bizarre and contradictory positions on open source software make him a less than ideal candidate for helping to shape national policy on the subject. Asking Scott McNealy to write a paper about open source software is a bit like asking Dick Cheney to write a paper about government transparency.

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