[Fsfe-ie] Open source 'too costly' for Irish e-gov

James Heald j.heald at ucl.ac.uk
Fri Apr 30 21:26:14 CEST 2004

Aidan Delaney wrote:

> On Thu, 2004-04-29 at 23:49, adam beecher wrote:


>>The question over open source or open standards in Irish e-government is
>>especially pertinent now that work on Ireland's long-awaited Public Services
>>Broker has commenced after BearingPoint won the contract. When completed,
>>the Public Services Broker -- which is also now called reachservices -- will
>>serve as a kind of central nervous system for Irish e-government services,
>>linking practically all government departments and agencies so that
>>information on citizens can be shared.
> Blah, blah...I don't really care...  They can start out with closed
> source software but if they use true open standards (i.e. not WS-I) they
> have no barrier to move to OSS or FS in our case.  We then just have to
> make a stronger case for the adoption of FS, or better still get the
> consultant who advises the Minister drunk :)
> There's nothing outrageous in this statement except the claim that the
> WS-I promote open standards.  I suggest we don't get offended by the
> possible perception of an insult to the FOSS community and simply point
> out that the WS-I do not produce open standards like the W3C etc...

The key point which I think needs to amplified is: just as there is an 
important difference between "open source" and "shared source", so there 
is an important difference between "open standards" and "shared standards".

Open source grants the permissions (and the practical access) to use; 
copy; modify; and redistribute a program without restriction.

Similarly, the real test of an open standard is whether it too allows 
the data originator the permission (and the practical possibility) to 
subsequently access, copy, modify and redistribute their own data, in 
whatever way and on whatever systems they wish.

This is a higely different thing from merely publishing a standard, but 
limiting its use -- either by licensing conditions; or patenting; or 
tying to a particular architecture.

"Open Source" has the Open Source Definition, and the authority of the 
term's instigators to defend it.

Some similar landmark definition, with committed defenders, is needed to 
fight for the meaning of the words "Open Standard".

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