October 2002 OCLUG Meeting - Linux in Government

Joseph Potvin (of GOSLING and Open Source Solutions Showcase fame) and I will be presenting at the October 2, 2002 meeting of the Ottawa-Canada Linux Users Group.

Slides will be made available online.

October 2002 General Meeting
Wednesday, October 2, 2002  1900h - 2100h New Weekday!
Ottawa Public Library 120 Metcalfe, Ottawa ON [ map ]  New Location!

We will have two speakers this month, with the theme being Linux in Government

Joseph Potvin will give a talk entitled Economics of the Open Source Business Model. Summary:

This workshop session begins with a summary of conditions under which the open source business model makes good economic sense for suppliers and for customers of software solutions, and leads into a structured discussion of factors affecting the degree of engagement of this business model by government organizations as both suppliers and customers.

About the Session Leader:

Joseph Potvin is a team member of the Managers of Enterprise Architecture in the Architecture and Standards Directorate, Government Telecommunications & Informatics Service (GTIS). GTIS is a part of Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC). He is active in engaging the open source business model for GTIS operations, and was coordinator for the May 2002 "Open Source Solutions Showcase" hosted by Innovatec, a part of GTIS. During the summer of 2002, he led a team that created and shared two small government-produced applications on SourceForge ( http://simpleassets.sourceforge.net/ and http://simpletracker.sourceforge.net/ ). In an earlier position at the International Development Research Centre, Mr. Potvin was the architect and product manager of the Canadian Government's first open source software release. OPA (Online Proposal Appraisal / http://www.bellanet.org/opa ) is a full-featured workflow management application released as version 1.0 for ColdFusion in 2000; advanced to version 2.0 in 2001 through contibutions by the World Bank; and re-developed this year in PHP by a Netherlands/Uganda team working for KiNcite. He is the co-ordinator for the currently forming communities-of-practice known as GOSLING (Getting Open Source and Linux INto Governments) and GOOSE (Government Official Open Source Engagement). GOSLING involves people in their individual professional capacities, whereas members of GOOSE collaborate in their official roles. Portals for each of these will be announced soon.

Russell McOrmond will follow with his presentation From Raymond to Stallman: Open Source equality or Free Software public policy?. Summary:

There have been some interesting debates this year that have come out of some of the advocacy for Free Software to be adopted in various ways in government. Positions range from governments giving equal opportunity to all computing methods, to mandating interoperable standards in all interfaces, to "free software first" or "free software only" policies. Declan McCullagh wrote an article called "Geeks in government: A good idea?" which sparked many related conversations.

I will be presenting my own views and current involvement in the Free Software advocacy scene in Canada. I fall very clearly onto the side of believing that Geeks must become an active part of the public policy process. I draw analogies to the Free Software implications of public policy with other existing public policy.

I am of the view that the Official Languages Act is "required but not sufficient" to engage in understandable information exchanges between citizens and their government. We also need an "Access to Information Act", elected representatives in government, publicly viewable Hansard transcripts of what happens in parliament, an Auditor General, and so-forth.

In the same way I believe that publicly accessible and/or patent cleared/royalty free) interfaces are "required but not sufficient" in technology, that other requirements of software and related technology should be expected by government. Some of these requirements of open access and accountability in technology will only be able to be met with Free Software, whether or not the terms "Free Software" or "Open Source Software" is ever mentioned in the bills before parliament.

Why mention Eric Raymond and Richard Stallman?

When the founding fathers of the United States wrote the US constitution, they recognized that some of the greatest threats to the soverenty of U.S. citizens may come from the US Government itself. This is where the "right to bear arms" came from.

What they did not realize at that time was that the small guns that citizens may carry are useless to ensure accountability of a government where information and the restriction of the sharing of information is the greatest battleground.

Where the founding fathers, and more recently Software Libertarians like Eric Raymond, see the "right to bear arms" as important, I believe that "the right to Use the Source" for both software and non-software information is much more important. I see the ideas of Stallman, not of Raymond, as being a modernization of the ideas that founded the United States.

Updates on the status of:

   www.digital-copyright.ca  - Open Source and Copyright Reform
                             - DMCA , Legal Protection of TPM - opponents

   www.CanOpenER.ca          - Open Source Education and Research
                               Pre-launch discussions of GOSLINGS

   www.linux.ca              - CLUE - adding advocacy component?
                             - Other LUG's having PAC's
                               (Political Action Cmtees)

                             - Left-wing Canadian advocacy
                               (New Politics Initiative)

                             - Meetings with MP's

Russell McOrmond, Bio:

In the early 1980's I got involved with telecommunications, starting as most as a Sysop of a local BBS. In the early 90's I became aware of the Free Software Foundation and the GNU project during my involvement with the Community Networking (Freenet) movement. With the Freenet I was promoting the use of interoperable Internet based tools for community use. The Internet and what became known as the Open Source movement were seen as interdependent movements, each offering potential enhancements and risks to citizens and communities.

Advocacy work relating to these interdependent technology movements turned into promotion of specific public policy ideas in the late 1990's to today.

I run my own consulting business, FLORA Community Consulting http://www.flora.ca/, which focuses on Open Source and Free Software based solutions. I often mix my for-pay and volunteer advocacy work.

Following the meeting, many OCLUG members convene at a nearby pub for our monthly Beer SIG. Everyone is welcome to attend. The location is the Mayflower II pub, 201 Queen St., just east of Bank St.