I have blogged about the benefits of government support and encouragement for using open source software, but I was reminded about this topic when reading a blog by Matt Asay on InfoWorld.
Matt has a really great point here:
“it’s clear that money really isn’t driving these decisions. Freedom is. Freedom from lock-in to vendors whose interests are not always aligned with the government’s. Freedom to build up the local economy…” (InfoWorld Blog)
People tend to talk about how open source is free (as in free beer) saying that the cost factor leads governments (especially in emerging countries or countries without many resources) to select open source. This misses the point and misses a great opportunity. Many governments do not want to be locked into purchases that require them to pay large sums of money to big software companies in the US and other wealthy nations. These governments also have the opportunity to grow a robust, local software ecosystem and create local jobs by using open source. With readily accessible source code and online communities of developers, local companies can be formed to provide support and service, consulting, and system integration. This creates local jobs and supports the local community by combining open source software with local services, something any government would readily champion.