Conference pushes for open source in government

European and US government agencies looking for low-cost, or no-cost, software solutions can hear what the open-source community...

European and US government agencies looking for low-cost, or no-cost, software solutions can hear what the open-source community has to offer during a conference in Washington DC next week.

The conference, "Open Standards/Open Source for National and Local e-Government Programs in the US and EU," will include about 125 presentations on a variety of open-source projects and topics between Monday and Wednesday. It will also include a speaker from Microsoft on the company's shared-source initiative, which has led to threats of protests by some free software activists, who see shared source as a watered-down version of free software ideals.

The conference, at George Washington University and sponsored by the Center of Open Source and Government, is important because government agencies are looking for new ways to save money in their IT budgets, said organiser Tony Stanco. This conference will focus on government agencies in Europe and the US, while the first such conference last October focused on how open-source software could help governments in developing nations. A third conference is planned for late 2003.

The goal of the conference is for open-source advocates and government workers to "exchange ideas on the best way to move forward," said Stanco, founding director of the open-source centre.

Among the sessions at the conference will be Stanco talking about the Open Source Threshold Escrow Programme (O-STEP), a programme to help transition the software industry to open source. O-STEP permits traditional proprietary software companies to escrow their source code until a stated sales threshold is reached. Once the sales threshold is hit, the code escrow breaks and the code is released to the open-source community.

Other presentations include a point-and-click demonstration of Linux on the desktop, a discussion of security evaluations and open-source software, and a discussion of open-source strategies and business models in health care. A conference agenda is available at

Meanwhile, members of New York Linux organization NYLXS still plan to protest because Microsoft has been invited to speak. Ruben Safir, organiser of the protests, said a group of about 10 protestors will be at the event, wearing Revolutionary War costumes and armed with slogans such as "When good men do nothing, evil men make deals with Microsoft". Safir had said he originally received e-mail from about 400 people interested in the protest.


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