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Tech Industry

Study shows governments' open-source embrace

Dozens of government proposals arise, but never get off the ground.

Governmental bodies have approved at least 90 initiatives involving open-source software, a Washington think tank has found.

The efforts include measures to investigate open-source software or give it preference in purchasing decisions, according to a draft study published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The tally indicates some success by open-source advocates promoting the programming philosophy in favor of the prevailing proprietary products pushed by Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and others. But the study also demonstrated that those advocates haven't gotten all they want: In 24 cases of proposals that would require use of open-source software, "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," the study said.

The study didn't investigate whether technology obstacles, lobbying or other factors derailed the mandatory purchase proposals.

Lobbying groups such as the Initiative for Software Choice--funded by Microsoft and others--argue strongly against policies to require or favor open-source software. Such policies "weaken the overall information technology marketplace, biasing the choice of viable options available to public authorities," said Melanie Wyne, the initiative's coalition manager, in a letter opposing a measure California legislators considered last week that would favor open-source purchases.

Open-source software may be freely seen, modified and redistributed by anyone. Its potential advantages for governments include the ability to scrutinize software to make sure there aren't hidden vulnerabilities. The software also offers a decreased reliance on foreign companies and the potential for cost-savings.

The study indicates lobbying groups on the open-source movement are getting organized. For example, in Italy, the Green Party has introduced motions in Florence, Milan, Torino and four other cities to start or expand the use of open-source software. The motions use the same language, the study said.