Government policies designed to promote the use of open source software do not prevent the use of proprietary software, according to a draft report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The Washington, DC-based independent public policy advisory organization has counted up pro-open source national and local government policy and legislation worldwide and the effect it has had on purchasing decisions, with the general conclusion being that the outcome of these efforts is neither a ban on proprietary software nor an endorsement of [open source] products as innately superior.
National and local government has become a key battleground between Microsoft Corp. and the major Linux vendors, with many government organizations such as Munich in Germany, Bergen in Norway and Austin, Texas, promoting the use of open source software as a method for cutting costs and increasing software licensing flexibility.
Microsoft has previously argued that pro-open source legislation is counter productive and limits choice for government organizations. In August 2002 it joined the Initiative for Software Choice based on its belief that software should be selected based on its merit, not its model of development.
Far from creating bias towards open source development, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) draft report, 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.
The CSIS counted 129 national and 57 local government initiatives across the world promoting the use of open source software, rating them as research and development, preference, advisory or mandatory, as well as approved, proposed or failed.
According to the draft report, just over half of the initiatives have not got beyond the proposal stage while of those that have been approved over 80% expressed only a preference for open source software but did not impose any requirements or limitations.
Although we found 24 proposals to mandate or require the use of open source, none of these ever entered in to force and we found no cases of a government mandating the use of open source or forbidding the use of proprietary products, stated the report.
The study shows that 64 national open source policies are currently at the proposal stage worldwide, with 61 already approved and four having failed. Meanwhile 30 local open source policies are at the proposal stage globally, with 23 approved, and four failed.