Open Source in Government: Who was first?

Brian Purchia of Burson-Marsteller has a post over on GovFresh about the value of open source to unions. His argument pivots on cost-savings. I think you could make a more expansive argument that includes risk mitigation and innovation, but describing the advantage to unions is an interesting angle I hadn’t seen before.

I noticed that Brian repeated the misunderstanding that San Francisco had the nation’s first open source policy. I don’t want to diminish his larger argument, but it’s important that we give credit where credit’s due. So for the record:

  • May 28, 2003: DOD issues the “Stenbit memo,” which assures readers that open source is commercial software under the law, and can be used in the DOD.
  • July 1, 2004: OMB issues OMB-04-16, making clear that open source can be used in the Federal Government
  • September 30 2009Portland, OR is the first city to issue an open source policy.
  • October 16, 2009: The US Department of Defense CIO issues a memo reiterating that open source software is commercial software for procurement purposes, and encouraging DOD branches to include open source when they’re picking software.
  • January 7, 2010: California‘s open source policy is published.
  • February 1, 2010San Francisco, CA issues their open source policy.

These are just what I could find, of course. If you know of others, let me know! If you’d like to see a comprehensive history of open source battles in national and state governments around the world, CSIS maintains an annual survey intuitively titled “Government Open Source Policies“. Even just skimming it, you’ll be surprised at how little progress the United States has made in open source policymaking.

[Update: David Wheeler was good enough to point out the Stenbit memo at the sister post on opensource.com.]