The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Open Security Technology projects released a report on the challenges and opportunities of open source software within government along with recommendations to address and overcome these.
The report “Open Source Software in Government: Challenges and Opportunities,” authored by David A. Wheeler, Institute for Defense Analyses and Tom Dunn, Georgia Tech Research Institute, is based on interviews conducted in 2011.
The report emphasizes the importance of case studies to highlight open source execution within government, bringing more awareness to support and warranty options, simplify code release processes and increase education around license guidance and procurement.
To no one’s surprise, issues such as fear of change, transition costs, contentment with incumbent software, lack of software expertise due to outsourcing and questions about security and code quality are inhibitors to government OSS adoption.
“Many contractors and government employees did not understand laws and policies regarding OSS. For example, a government employee stated “Federal departments are not in touch with the power already in their hands with existing policy. They are waiting for some legislation or executive order, and are not willing to stick their neck out.” Another government employee concurred, noting “There is no barrier to the use and development of OSS or public domain software.” Also, the interviewers encountered pervasive use of the term “commercial software” as an antonym of OSS. Yet U.S. law defines commercial software in a way that includes most OSS.”