Category Archives: OpenGovernment

OSCON 2011 this week

Open Source Convention OSCON 2011

Open Source Convention OSCON 2011

OSCON 2011 starts off this week on Wednesday July 27th with keynotes by Jono Bacon from Ubuntu, Jim Zemlin of the Linux Foundation and Karen Sandler of GNOME Foundation. Through the week, OSCON also brings some excellent topics on open source in mobile, education, cloud as well as open source tools and technologies including PHP, Ruby, Javascript and HTML5.

The conference proceedings are being streamed live.

A couple of talks I would like everyone reading this post to attend include a talk on creative techniques for loading web pages for Wikipedia by Trevor Parscal and Roan Kattouw from my team (Features Engineering at Wikimedia Foundation) as well as a talk on how to raise millions of dollars using open source by Arthur Richards from Wikimedia’s fundraising engineering team. Go Team!

What’s interesting: Hancom goes Open. A decade of Linux at HP. Open Source not a Business Model.

Recent statements in the world of Open Source and Linux.

Hancom, South Korea’s leading software developer says it will open source its popular word processing software Hangul for community to develop software for mobile devices.

Hancom, the developer of a word-processing program known to Koreans as Hangul and foreigners as HanWord, said this week it will open up the product’s source code so other people can modify it for smart phones, tablet computers and other new gadgets. smart phones, tablets and other new devices. Hangul was adopted by the South Korean government nearly 20 years ago and has been a standard in most South Korean companies too, making the country one of the few places where Microsoft’s Office suite of workplace products has taken a back seat. Nearly all documents by the government, except for those of Korea Intellectual Property Office, are Hangul files, which are known by their “HWP” file extension. Companies and individual users have to either buy the software or download a free ‘HWP viewer’ to be able to read them. A person could open Microsoft Word documents in the Hangul program, but not vice versa.

Read more at WSJ.

Bdale Garbee, HP’s Chief Technologist for Open Source and Linux talks about a decade of Linux at HP and what’s coming up in M&As – perhaps Novell?

“HP is absolutely committed to open source”. Bdale Garbee shares some statistics to back up this claim:
* Over 6,500 HP service employees to implement and support Linux and open source worldwide
* Over 3,000 open source software projects initiated
* Over 2,500 HP developers focused on open source
* Over 1,200 open source printer drivers provided

Read more at OSNews.

Red Hat CEO says open source is not a business model; it’s a way to develop software.

Jim Whitehurst, president and CEO of Red Hat, the oldest and by far the most successful company whose business is based purely around open source, makes no bones about it: “Selling free software is hard,” he says. In fact, he goes further: “Open source is not a business model; it’s a way to develop software.”

Read more in this interview with Glyn Moody at CIO UK. – A Developer’s Viewpoint: A Conversation with Michael Meeks could be so much more, given a less top down approach to project management and a looser rein on developers’ ability to get involved.

Read more at the H Open.

Let’s Unlock Our Data

Document Freedom Day March 31, 2010

Document Freedom Day March 31, 2010

Today is Document Freedom Day. It is a day marked around the world for document liberation. It also highlights the importance of using open standards and open data formats for document interchange between everyone who has information to share – between people, schools, businesses and governments.

Progress is being made.

The Open Government Initiative launched last year by the Obama administration is a giant step in implementing open government. Its directives define goals for improving the quality of government information available to the public and for creating a policy framework to build and maintain a culture of open government. At the level of open document and information exchange, real progress is being achieved by completing milestones that track the success of this initiative.

But there are still hurdles to overcome.

In his keynote at OSBC earlier this month, Tim O’Reilly talked about how data lock-in has become a serious challenge to open data. I believe we, and our governments, must even more persistently apply the principles of open source — transparency, collaboration and participation — to free our information and documents from the threat of data lock-in.

At OSCON 2009

OSCON 2009
The O’Reilly Open Source Convention (OSCON) moved down from Portland to San Jose this year. Here are some highlights of my experiences at the conference this time.

What did I like?


Why does every open source developer, entrepreneur and evangelist want to be at OSCON every year? More precisely, why do I like to be at OSCON every year :-) It’s because of the community – the community around open source. OSCON continues to be the only open source technology conference in the US where everyone can meet their friends, colleagues and fellow community members to talk technology and discuss where open source is heading. OSCON still manages to attract the combined free and open source community. There are developers, community activists, and leading technologists from local and global open source projects and organizations, all interested in leveraging open source software and in practicing collaborative innovation.

What did I find really interesting?

Open Source in Education

Anyone involved in open source advocacy today will include “open source in education” as one of their top priorities. The global message is clear – there is a shortage of talent to support open source software. It is the education systems across the world which need to produce these needed resources. A couple of talks at OSCON – ‘Educating Students in 21st Century Skills via FOSS’ and ‘New Ways for Teaching Children Software Programming’ featured experts who relayed their experiences and reviewed best practices in teaching open source technologies in high schools and universities in the US.

Open Government: Transparency = Open Source + Open Standards + Open Data

Tim O’Reilly, publisher and owner of O’Reilly Media, started the discussions on Open Government at OSCON with his keynote which highlighted efforts of the new Obama administration to promote open data and open source software for equal access to information. O’Reilly also talked about the new advocacy group – “Open Source for America” which will focus on lobbying the US government to use open source software. There were also some excellent panel discussions on open government which discussed issues of open data, transparency and the practicalities of working with government. Personally, having worked for many years on technology projects with government agencies and witnessed first-hand the fast pace at which agencies have absorbed open source technologies – it was very interesting to witness the current spike in enthusiasm among the Silicon Valley technorati to engage in public-private partnerships to work with the federal government. In the panel, ‘Open Source / Open Government’ – moderated by my colleague at the Open Source Initiative (OSI), Danese Cooper – Brian Behlendorf spoke of the sometimes frustrating effort required to work with various agencies. The panel provided valuable insight into the tough process of trying to implement open government in real organizations. The second panel on ”Bureaucrats, Technocrats and Policy Cats: How the Government is turning to Open Source, and Why’ presented Oregon state initiatives such as DemocracyLab, Government Open Source Conference (GOSCON) and Open Source Digital Voting Foundation (OSDV). This panel offered a snapshot of changes that open source software has enabled in public policy, government, and education.

Digital Media, Publishing, Open Source

The age of digital media has arrived. News on paper has to co-exist with the Internet. And OSCON sessions on how paper and digital are working together using open source were well presented by New York Times (NYT) as well as by National Public Radio (NPR). David Gottfrid of the New York Times did a great session on the NYT’s goals to share their content online and their APIs for opening up their digital content – news stories, audio podcasts, blogs and opinions. Excellent material to build some great data mashups. Another interesting talk on mainstream media going online, was by Adam Martin of National Public Radio (NPR) who walked through NPR Digital’s open APIs for sharing their audio podcasts and online content. Grey areas still exist such as licensing of content for non commercial vs. commercial usage as well as their choice to not use CC licenses for content distribution. There were many questions about what non-commercial usage is. What if someone’s personal blog uses Google Ads on their site? What if someone mashes up NPR audio with their own commentary and spreads disinformation? Boundaries of usage are still unclear and being worked out by these organizations.

Social Good: Making a Change with Open Source

My friend Zaheda Bhorat organized a diverse group of projects showcasing how open standards and open source software are helping to generate social benefits today. The presenters for three different projects – Paul Rademaker from, Adam Lerer from Open Data Kit (an Android based system helping community healthcare workers in Kenya and Uganda) and Greg Norris of – talked about how their projects are using open source software, open data and open standards to make an impact in the areas of volunteering, poverty eradication, healthcare and climate change.

Technology Trends

Other sessions that I enjoyed attending included “State of Lightning Talks” hosted by Josh Berkus to get a 5 minute snapshot of active open source projects – from PGSQL, Drupal, OpenOffice to newcomers such as MariaDB, R language, and MongoDB. Jim Zemlin of the Linux Foundation delivered the closing keynote for the conference on Friday afternoon. It was an interesting talk about Zemlin’s projections on how Linux was fast becoming the default choice for peripheral hardware producers. Linux has helped Asian hardware vendors maintain their margins in a high volume business. These vendors use Linux for its technology as well as to avoid Microsoft license fees. He also predicted that Apple’s AppStore model was going to become pervasive with every hardware vendor having their own store to reduce fees that have to be paid to third parties. Jim offered another projection about the netbook revolution coming to the US in the next 6 months, with ATT launching a $50 netbook based VOIP service.

Three things that I felt were well done at OSCON

  • Excellent content on emerging topics: I liked the breadth and depth of new and emerging topics such as open government, climate change, social good.
  • Good expo interaction with excellent talks from companies (e.g. Intel talk on Moblin) and some excellent organizations in both the dot org and for-profit sections.
  • Snacks, healthy as well as not-so-healthy, in the expo hall sponsored for every break ;-)

Three things that I’d like to see at OSCON

  • New speakers; New topics: Fresh faces and new topics can always help invigorate a conference.
  • More participation: Attendance was estimated at about 2000 people by the organizers this year. In the vastness of the San Jose convention center, the crowds seemed smaller. Maybe lower registration fees would help in these times of recession. Lower fees could also help OSCON compete with low cost or free unconferences that are gaining in popularity.
  • More water please: All attendees would benefit from more water dispensers in the hallways and expo hall.

Technology Leaders Welcome US CTO Aneesh Chopra

US CTO Announced

US CTO Announced

Aneesh Chopra is the first US Federal Chief Technology Officer. He’s 37 years old, a Harvard graduate, a successful CTO at the state level, and an American of Indian origin. A crescendo of praise for this new star is rising. But it is also raising up every technology leader’s wish-list for fresh consideration by the top US technology policy and implementation machinery. From big bloggers like Tim O’Reilly to Intel’s Craig Barrett to VC Vinod Khosla, everyone has admiration… and expectations.

Mr. Chopra is reported to understand the power of today’s new trends in the technology ecosystem – collaboration, open content and the Internet. He‘s in a position to make wise choices among competing IT agendas, where both action and vision matter. Let’s hope he applies the best information technologies to the real problems he’s mandated to solve. For the benefit of all of us.

India Election Mashups Web 2.0 Style

India Election Mashups

India Election Mashups

India engages in the important ritual of democracy – an Indian general election — every five years. This ritual will be held from April 16 through May 13, 2009 when all 543 seats of the lower house of the Indian Parliament known as the Lok Sabha are up for grabs.

714 million voters, 828,804 polling stations and boatloads of money spent to engage in this process.

The Indian subsidiaries of two of the largest global web companies – Google India and Yahoo India have launched two mashups in Web 2.0 style. Both sites do a good job of educating the English speaking voters of India on the latest in election news, analysis, voting myths, election abbreviations and symbols, and polling schedules. The sites have some interactive features such as maps, polls to understand the citizens’ priorities on issues such as infrastructure, power, water, jobs, economy and national security.  The sites personalize data based on the voter’s location and permit searching voter rolls to find your polling booth.

These mashups could be even more helpful if they were provided in local languages. The non-English speaking majority of voters in India would benefit by access to modern and unbiased election information services. Hopefully next time an Indian startup will see the opportunity to help inform and build a nation!

Check out the Yahoo! mashup here and the Google mashup here.