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Red Hat chairman prescribes open source to solve state's economic woes

Matthew Szulik is still evangelically preaching the open-source gospel as a way to solve economic ills.

Once a missionary, always a missionary.

That's the thought I had while reading Red Hat chairman Matthew Szulik's recent op-ed piece on improving North Carolina's economic competitiveness. Szulik, who led Red Hat for over a decade, was known for an almost evangelical zeal for open source.

I found it inspirational; Red Hat competitors found it unsettling.

It's perhaps not surprising that Szulik is still preaching the open-source gospel, this time to his home state of North Carolina. Seeking to rejuvenate his state's financial prospects, Szulik "demand[s] new and innovative strategies from our elected officials," centering on an open-source approach:

The rapid pace of innovation in software and hardware technologies reduces the economic value of these patents to the university system when these innovations could be fully monetized by the private sector. I propose that North Carolina "open source" the university technology and intellectual property portfolios into the public domain and place these assets in the hands of entrepreneurs who can create jobs. North Carolina has an opportunity to take the lead in creating authentic public partnerships through open source and open, collaborative and innovative models.

Why not? What does a state stand to lose by opening up its technology to its citizens? Little to nothing, and much to potentially gain.

In similar ways, enterprises have little to lose from open sourcing all the software they write to run their businesses. Imagine the increased productivity we could squeeze from our financial services industry if more of the code they write were shared amongst Bank of America, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, etc.

Open source is not an excuse not to compete. It's a way to compete more efficiently, focusing on real innovation rather than everyone reinventing the same wheels.

Szulik recognizes this, and has proposed a way for North Carolina to improve its financial prospects. Let's hope the state listens, and that others, including other industries, listen in.

Follow me on Twitter at mjasay.