05 April 2006

Open Source for Governor

"Most people who know about "open source" (including Free/Libre software) understand it as a technological model. A smaller group says no, really it's an economic model (Yochai Benkler's 2002 Coase's Penguin, or Linux and the Nature of the Firm is perhaps the most visible manifestation of this perspective). But while both of these perspectives are narrowly correct, they are also both incomplete. Ultimately, open source is a political model."

The above quote is from WorldChanging, a remarkable blog filled with ideas and concepts aimed at a new, better world. If it sounds idealistic, banish the notion. WorldChanging is optimistic, but it keeps its intellectual feet firmly on the ground.

Their argument for open source supported and fostered at the government level is quite practical:

"...(W)e frequently build on the argument that the real value of Linux, and the free/libre/open source model in general, is that it enables previously technologically-dependent communities to build the tools that they need with their own skills, and become a global participant as a producer of ideas, not simply a consumer." (Emphasis Mine.)

Takes Me back to My earliest Jenius posts...

The United Nations University's International Institute for Software Technology (UNU-IIST) has even stated this principle as part of its core program for development. UNU-IIST Director Dr. Mike Reed is quoted in WorldChanging:

"Being a 'passive consumer' rather than an 'active participant' is not in the best interests of a developing nation's government or business sectors. Technological self-determination in developing countries is key to their future prosperity and is contingent on harnessing the power of this high-tech phenomenon.

...open source software is of great interest to governments in implementing their Electronic Governance initiatives. Apart from reducing costs, the benefits include: localization of solutions and content, government-wide standardization and sharing of development results, and transparency in the government's use of technology."

Hmm..."Active participants"..."Transparency in the government's use of technology"... Yeah, that should thrill The Fools here who almost openly yearn for the days when the average Puerto Rican had a 4th grade education.

Regardless of the fact that the average Fool has the technological acumen on the same level as that of a gerbil's ability to sing Il Pagliacci in Turkish, it isn't up to them to decide whether We use open source or not. It's Our decision, and if We expect the government to make the right one, then We are doomed.

Our actions must be aimed at making open source the standard. Not as an "anti-somebody" stance but as a "for citizenry" posture. As you may have noticed by reading the WorldChanging article, countries that are decades behind Us in technology are making huge strides, and if they pass Us, catching up will be almost impossible.

Imagine a future in which the top-producing countries are small, densely-populated with highly-educated people, loaded with communication infrastructure and supported by a government that seeks out opportunities and clears the way for its people to take advantage of them.

It doesn't take much imagination, for We're getting close. "We" as in "the world", not "We" as in Puerto Rico. For though We are almost the perfect candidates for that future scenario, We lack the two most vital components: technology infrastructure and a government that understands its new role.

They won't do it. That leaves Us.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

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