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Cost is only part of the Gov 2.0 open source story
Source: http://radar.oreilly.com
Source Date: Monday, August 23, 2010
Focus: Knowledge Management in Government
Country: United States
Created: Aug 30, 2010

Bryan Sivak, chief technology officer for the District of Columbia and a speaker at the upcoming Gov 2.0 Summit, has smartly mixed healthy realism with enthusiastic support for open source in government. The result is a message that resonates beyond open source evangelists.

For example, here's what he recently had to say about the allure of open source cost savings:

"I don't think cost savings of open source is the panacea that everyone thinks it is. It's true that there's no upfront licensing cost, but there's cost in figuring out the appropriate implementation strategy, making sure you have the people with the right skills on staff, and making sure you're able to maintain and manage the system. You need to put a lot into how you implement it."

Acknowledging the limits of open source savings is key to ongoing use. It's all about managing expectations: If I expect 100 percent savings and your open source solution only offers 50 percent, I won't be pleased. But lead with the real story and show me the other benefits and maybe I'll commit for the short- and long-term.

Speaking of those other benefits: Sivak noted during our interview that open source's real upside lies in its ability to expand the talent pool and take government transparency to a new level.

"You can get people to help you build things who would not normally be involved in that process," Sivak said. "In a weird sort of way, we're's actually taking this concept of government openness and transparency and making it even more open and transparent. We're saying: 'Here are our business processes. Here are the things we need to accomplish with this tool or this solution. Help us accomplish this'."

Sivak explored a host of related ideas in our full discussion, including:
  • Why sharing software and technology projects between local, state and federal governments could solve a "multi-billion dollar problem."
  • How Code for America's Civic Commons project is applying the lessons of Linux to open government. "If we can create a foundation that makes it easy for governments to adopt this open source stack, and everything that goes along with it ... then we've got a winner," he said.
  • And finally: Why he thinks "Gov 2.0" might need a new name.
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