March 2008

Earlier this month, the European Commission issued a press release stating that it "will take a more pro-active approach to its own use of open source" and that "for all new development, where deployment and usage is foreseen by parties outside of the Commission Infrastructure, open source software will be the preferred development and deployment platform." While this is a strong stance regarding the use of open source, the European Commission still considers itself to be "an early adopter of open source".

Canada has yet to issue such a clear cut procurement policy towards open source. It has been five years since e-cology corporation made its recommendations in its fact finding study funded by the Canadian Federal Government. The current official position is that "departments and agencies base their decisions to acquire, develop and use software (including open source software) on their business needs and the principles set out in the government's Federated Architecture Program."

The Canadian Federal Government's position is wide open to interpretration and often leaves open source contractors to struggle against departments who are ignorant of and perhaps hostile to open source, and a bidding process that uses terminology which assumes a proprietary business model. Citizens are also affected, as can be seen in the example of Statistics Canada requiring the use of a particular proprietary operating system and software application in order to complete a mandatory Canadian Automated Export Declaration form.

While much needs to change, progress is being made regarding the procurement of open source within Canada. In the first article, Robert Charpentier discusses a report he co-authored with Richard Carbone for Defence R&D Canada. At the time of the original study, there was both government and commercial pressure to avoid the use of open source. For this reason, the study methodology was rigorous in order to bypass agendas and get a realistic view of what open source was available and if it met Defence Canada's technical and procedural requirements. The report offers specific guidelines for evaluating open source within the Government of Canada, and spawned a series of other studies which are in progress.

The second article provides an open source adoption model for Canada. Carlo Daffara describes the preliminary findings from the OpenTTT project which adapted the best practices used by Europe's existing Innovation Relay Centres to include the adoption of open source solutions. He details the benefits to small businesses and the lessons learned thus far.

The third article highlights that open source isn't just something that can be procured, it can also be used to create a solution to manage procurement. Dave Stephens, CEO of Coupa Software, describes how open source is bringing e-procurement out of the exclusive domain of the Fortune 500 as well as the business model behind the first open source e-procurement solution provider.

The fourth article is written by two consultants, Glenn McKnight and Evan Leibovitch, with decades of experience in IT projects, open source, education, and advocacy. They describe open source's quiet revolution in Canada and identify the key factors that need to change for open source to become better known.

This month, we also have a Q&A written by Murray Stokely from the FreeBSD Project. He provides an answer to the question "does Google's Summer of Code project provide any value to open source projects and the students who participate?"

Until there is a clearly defined policy for open source in Canada, open source adoption will remain sporadic and experiential. We welcome comments from readers regarding their own experience as well as pointers to other reports and documentation. Comments can either be sent to the Editor or registered readers can post a comment directly on the website, next to the article of interest.

Dru Lavigne


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