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Open Source policies and legislation around the world

Declan McCullagh [via his Politech list] points to a nice summary [PDF] of Open Source initiatives at various levels of government around the world, produced by Jason Keiber of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Here's his introductory note:

We are continuing to update this table, and appreciate all the feedback we�ve received.

The following chart provides information on the number and type of Open Source (OS) software policies and legislation considered by national, regional or local governments around the world. It looks at whether the policy or legislation mandated the use of OS, expressed a preference for OS software, encouraged its use or commissioned research into OS software. We have not included purchasing decisions (i.e. a government decided to buy OS products). While a purchase of OS software could indicate a policy decision that has not been publicly articulated, it could also be simply a decision made on the basis of price or product.

The table also includes information on the fate of the policy or legislation initiative. Not surprisingly, slightly more than half of the initiatives never went beyond the proposal stage. Of those initiatives that were approved, over eighty percent expressed only a preference for OS software or encouraged its use, but did not impose any requirements or limitations. The remainder of approved initiatives involved government sponsored research. Although we found twenty four proposals to mandate or require the use of open source, none of these ever entered into force and we found no cases of a government mandating the use of open source or forbidding the use of proprietary products.

A cursory review of the statements that accompanied these initiatives suggest that the motives of various legislators or governments in putting forward OS initiatives include unhappiness with the U.S. lead in software, the hope that the use of open source would encourage an indigenous software industry, a commitment to the 'informatization' of society, and a desire to reduce the costs of information technology purchases.

The outcome of these efforts is neither a ban on proprietary software nor an endorsement of OS products as innately superior. The various policy and legislative initiatives seem to have produced a kind of technological neutrality. Acquisition decisions are shaped more by considerations of price and performance rather than some normative factor.

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