Measures Governments Can Use To Promote Free Software

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Free and open-source software offers governments potential benefits like cost savings, security, transparency, and local economic growth. However, widespread adoption faces challenges like entrenched proprietary systems, limited awareness, and training barriers. Wise policies and initiatives can expand open-source usage in the public sector.


Educating Government Workers

Most government employees remain unfamiliar with free software alternatives used elsewhere. Hosting conferences, seminars, and workshops to showcase practical open-source tools for public sector work builds knowledge. Bring in experts to demonstrate systems handling needs like records management, service request tracking, payroll, website CMS, and more. Hands-on exposure sparks interest.


Funding Pilot Projects

Allocate budgets for city and state agencies to implement free software pilots for non-critical systems first. Let groups test open-source options for email, office productivity, network servers, or other basic functions. Successful small-scale deployments organically illustrate benefits and get buy-in for larger mission-critical system transitions. Publish pilot project results.


Preferential Purchasing Policies

Require procurement processes to prioritize free software alternatives alongside or ahead of proprietary solutions for new system purchases. Criteria could mandate considering open source first or provide point incentives during vendor RFP evaluations for open-source products meeting requirements. Bid requests should outline needs, not specific proprietary brands.


Allowing Customization

Government users require tailored solutions. Leverage free software's modularity and source code access to easily customize systems to agency needs versus proprietary vendors' rigid one-size-fits-all model. This flexibility justifies investments as software for governments evolves with the organization rather than forcing workflow changes to match inflexible vendor packages.


Publishing Cost Analyses

Documenting the long-term cost advantages of free software including lack of recurring license fees and vendor lock-in makes the ROI case. Also factor in costs of current systems like per seat licensing, version upgrade fees, and integration services. Public analyses counter proprietary vendor scare tactic claims about hidden costs.


Forming Advisory Groups

Creating committees of agency IT staff, software developers, community advocates, and vendors to recommend open-source policies and standards ensures diverse stakeholder perspectives. Groups should aim to balance innovation with practicality. Advisory guidance legitimizes and improves the feasibility of eventual system migrations.


Mandating Open Formats

Legislate that government data must be published and stored in cross-compatible open formats versus proprietary formats like DOC or XLS. Establishing open document standards eliminates vendor restrictions for access and exchange of public data. Formats like ODF and PDF encourage competition and participative governance.


Developing Government Software

State-funded software projects for common needs like payroll systems or electronic medical records can be open-sourced for sharing between government entities with significant cost and interoperability advantages versus agencies paying separately for proprietary systems. Collaborative development of shared free software resources catalyzes widespread adoption.


Offering Training Incentives

Allocate funding for personnel to receive training on high-demand open-source platforms to address skills gaps that hinder adoption. Prioritize training existing staff over expensive vendor-led custom implementations. Incentivize administrators and developers through funding for certifications and accreditation in key open-source technologies and methodologies.


Fostering Local Innovation

Support local colleges and universities in partnering with city governments on open-source projects addressing civic challenges. This provides students with relevant experience while engaging tomorrow's talent in public service. Metropolitan areas can become hubs for open-source software innovation targeting government needs through community collaboration.


Ensuring Security

Open-source code transparency allows continuous security auditing and patching of known vulnerabilities, unlike proprietary models. However, ensure systems are actively maintained and supported for this benefit. Prioritize security-focused distributions like Linux to prevent concerns of instability or malware risks.

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