My Google alert on open source went into overdrive on June 5/6 with the “news” that Vivek Kundra, the United States’ (U.S.’s) new and I think first chief information officer (CIO), “advocates open source.” Red Hat (RHAT) vice president Michael Tiemann says it’s so in a blog post. Ostatic and the 451 Group’s CAOS Theory echoed it. And the ‘usual-suspects’ list of open source blogoblatherers piled on with posts and tweets.
European-Union (EU)-like advocacy against open technology choice by the new U.S. government certainly does not surprise me. It would be consistent with the Obama administration also following through on decades-old U.S.-Democratic-party plans to “Europeanize” the U.S.’s positions in favor of nuclear arms proliferation, against the security of the State of Israel, in favor of nationalized industries, against private choice of health-care providers, in favor of labor-union goon squads, against the Second Amendment, and so forth. So be it! To the winner go the spoils.
But I would at least like to see what Mr. Kundra said in his advocacy of open source, both out of due diligence as an information technology (IT) analyst and as a U.S. taxpayer who is likely to get his pockets picked if his government does not support choice in technology procurement. The trouble is that I can’t find that Mr. Kundra said anything I would consider in any way seminal to all this June 5/6 excitement in the source cited by the blogoblatherers, a Federal Computer Week (FCW) article headlined “Kundra Advocates Open Source.”
In fact, without a little work I cannot even find the article (which is why above I only link to the Google search I used). The FCW web site says the “page is no longer available.” If I go to the Google cache of the FCW article, the only reference to Mr. Kundra that I find (other than in the headline) is this:
“So when Vivek Kundra, the federal government’s new chief information officer, includes open source as one of the technologies he supports using to make government work better and more cheaply, you would think open source is primed for a surge in support.”
But where does Mr. Kundra “include open source” in this way? Also based on Google I follow a pointer to Mr. Kundra’s introductory conference call as CIO. In that interview, the only thing I can find Mr. Kundra saying about open source is as follows:
“I think you look at open source, as a technology, whether it's mediawiki, for example... with Wikipedia what we did in the District of Columbia was that we had a wikipedia solution that allowed every single employee to collaborate and have access to information. I think there is also a place for specialized (Byron note: apparently meaning non-open-source) software, you look at the FAA (Byron note: Federal Aviation Administration) or if you are looking at DHS (Byron note: Department of Homeland Security), there are some mission critical systems that you can't apply an open source solution to. We need to have a very pragmatic, balanced approach in terms of software.”
Well that certainly does not sound like advocacy of or preference for open source. But I am not relieved by his apparent balance either. I don’t agree with Mr. Kundra’s attempt (in the report on the conference call) to contrast open source and proprietary terms and conditions (Ts&Cs) in terms of functionality. I don’t think there is any application where license Ts&Cs, which is basically what open source is all about in this context, should dictate technology decisions.
And I guess I need to find some way to fine tune my Google alert.
-- Dennis Byron