Celebrating a year of pushing the Feds toward open source

The goal of Open Source For America is to champion the use and adoption of open source software in the U.S. government. A year in, things are going well.

Open Source For America logo

To celebrate a year of championing the use of open source software in the U.S. government, Open Source For America has created an awards program to recognize those who took up the challenge.

The Open Source Awards Program will recognize people and projects in three categories: individuals, projects and deployment.

  • Individual Contributor award will recognize one internal OSFA member and one external contributor who has made significant contributions in the promotion and use of open source solutions in the U.S. government during the past year.
  • The Open Source Project category will recognize an open source project that has shown promise and benefit for U.S. government use.
  • The Open Source Deployment in Government category will honor a U.S. government agency or body that has shown commitment to the use of open source, through policy and/or adoption.
Nominations opened today and run through Aug. 20, with winners to be announced just a month later - fast and agile, as open source generally is. Judges will include a variety of members from OSFA's Technical Steering Committee and Board of Advisors.

Judges will consist of a number of open source luminaries drawn from the OSFA Technical Steering Committee and Board of Advisors. Full information, rules and guidelines will be available soon at can be found at opensourceforamerica.org/awards.

The organization began just a year ago, on July 21, 2009, as a group of technology industry leaders, non-government associations and academic and research institutions that wanted to advocate for the use of OSS in and by the U.S. government. It launched with 70 members, but has swelled to 1,700 organizations and individuals.

OSFA listed several announcements by the federal government as signaling "movement toward the adoption and usage of open source technologies."

  • In October 2009, the Deputy CIO for the Department of Defense issued a memo noting that open source software should be considered alongside other software options in the procurement process, and referencing publicly-auditable code, unrestricted modification, licensing costs, and freedom from vendor reliance as benefits unique to open source.
  • Also in October 2009, the White House announced the migration of Whitehouse.gov to an open source platform to increase security and facilitate greater public input.
  • In December 2009, President Obama issued the Open Government Directive, instructing the head of every federal department and agency to take specific actions to open their operations to the public. Open source principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration were at the center of the Directive and open source technologies provide a means for government departments and agencies to adhere to these principles while gaining multiple benefits across their IT infrastructure
President Obama's directive already has taken hold, with OpentheGovernment.org issuing a "report card" of government agencies' openness that showed even those that ranked at the bottom of the list had plans for using open source in some way. While it's unlikely this happened directly as a result of OSFA - and the organization is not taking credit for those announcements - it does show the group is onto something.

OSFA will be releasing its own study in the third quarter of the year, with its own report card. OSFA's study will give a letter grade to all Cabinet-level agencies, taking into consideration public transparency, participation and collaboration. Representatives of the Obama Administration's Open Government Working Group are participating in the study.

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