Tuesday, February 10, 2009

To President Obama: Please Consider Open Source

Dear President Obama,

Congratulations on your historic and unprecedented presidential victory. We, the authors, are proud to live and work in the nation that elected you and hope your presidency will be as successful as your campaign.

As software development professionals and executives, we were encouraged to read about your plan to bring American medical records into the 21st century. We agree that standardizing medical records in a digital format will reduce the cost of health care in this country, improve the quality of care Americans receive, and create jobs.

We also believe in the critical role of open-source software to create the applications and infrastructure necessary to support electronic medical records and other government-funded technology projects. Open-source software has already resulted in dramatic cost reductions in many technology areas, including:

• application hosting & infrastructure, thanks to open-source operating systems, application servers, and other products like Linux, Apache, Tomcat, and others;
• application development and deployment, thanks to tools like Eclipse, Ruby on Rails, subversion, and many, many others; and
• communication and collaboration, thanks to open-source applications such as OpenOffice and WordPress.

But, open-source software isn’t just about providing solutions to general problems. It is also starting to produce solutions for specific, “vertical” industry problems as well. One example of this is TriSano™ from Collaborative Software Initiative, an open source, citizen-focused surveillance and outbreak management system for infectious disease, environmental hazards, and bioterrorism attacks. It allows local, state and federal entities to track, control and ultimately prevent illness and death. TriSano was deployed statewide in Utah the day you became our President.

As you’ve said, we will be judged on what we build, not what we destroy. Building high quality software at much lower costs through collaboration will be a catalyst for good work between software developers in the IT industry and subject matter experts, like doctors and nurses, in the public sector.

Open-source software brings transparency to software development. There are no “black boxes” in open-source software and therefore no need to guess what is going on “behind the scenes.” Ultimately, this means a better product for everyone, because there is visibility at every level of the application, from the user interface to the data implementation. Furthermore, open-source software provides for platform independence, which makes quick deployments that benefit our citizens much easier and realistic.

For these reasons, we urge you to make it mandatory to consider the source of an application solution (open or closed) as part of the government’s technology acquisition process, just as considering accessibility by the handicapped is required today (as defined by section 508).

Mr. President, we believe the open-source industry is changing the world of software development in many of the ways you have promised to change American politics. The values of open source mirror those you promoted in your campaign: hope, change, and openness. We, the undersigned, sincerely hope that you will make the use of open-source software a key component of every new technology initiative the United States government enters into during your presidency.

Open-source software is really just the tip of the iceberg in changing the way the government works. We want to encourage you to find ways for states and agencies to collaborate together on solutions that ultimately are better than the sum of all the individual efforts combined and at much lower cost to each participant. Open-source software encourages this type of collaboration by making the results of previous successful efforts available to others with similar goals and needs.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. It’s encouraging to have, as President of the United States, a man who appreciates the role of science and technological innovation as part of America’s larger role as a world leader, and who wants to stimulate and encourage America’s growth in these areas.
Thank you.

David Christiansen
Senior Developer
Collaborative Software Initiative

Stuart Cohen
Chief Executive Officer
Collaborative Software Initiative

John Powell
Chief Executive Officer

Carl Erickson, PhD
Atomic Object

Chris Gladwin

Don Klaiss
Chief Executive Officer

Javier Soltero
Chief Executive Officer

Roger Burkhardt
Chief Executive Officer

Deb Woods
Vice President, Product Management

Brian Gentile
Chief Executive Officer

Rick Jung
Chief Operating Officer

Ross Mason
Chief Technology Officer & Co-Founder

Justin Steinman
Vice President
Solution & Product Marketing
Novell, Inc.

Steven L. Grandchamp
President and CEO

Tom Rabon
Vice President, Corporate Affairs
Red Hat

Mark de Visser

Bertrand Diard
Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder

Anthony Gold
President, Open Solutions Alliance
Vice President, Unisys Open Source Business

Scott C. Sanchez
Chief Architect
Unisys Open Source Business