H S on Sat, 3 Aug 2002 22:45:11 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Open Source from EU (headstar)



by William Mead wfmead@hotmail.com

The European Commission is shooting for too broad an outcome with its
proposals for a Pooling Open Source Software (POSS) scheme
(http://fastlink.headstar.com/poss) - a Europe-wide network of users,
developers and policy makers who would share software resources (see
E-Government Bulletin, 22 July 2002).

A better way might be to follow Lenin and Trotsky (minus the element of
armed insurrection) who proposed that Marxism could be 'jump started' by
fomenting a revolution headed by a vanguard of monomaniacal ideologues
proselytising Marxist principles.

A POSS Vanguard would consist of a cadre of open source monomaniacs
stalwartly dedicated to creating a replicable, fully interoperable, open
source small enterprise web portal 'kernel' that would use the internet as
its operating system.

A prototype system of this kind would be designed to meet the core
technology systems requirements of any small to medium sized government
agency anywhere in the world. It would be developed through collaborative,
federated working, beginning with the identification of universal
e-government processes, with a focus on e-democracy, e-learning and
delivery of revenue-driven e-government services.

The prototype would be built based on international web standards from the
World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Government entities using a variety of
operating systems and information system infrastructures would need to be
selected to create a core community of participants prepared to share
systems functions.

A single governmental entity with an internet service provider level
infrastructure would need to provide web services to the core community.
Once the prototype completes beta testing, governments from around the
world could deploy the POSS Web Portal and grow it to suit their own
particular user needs.

If the POSS Vanguard can come up with a rapid-deployment prototype version
of a replicable, revenue-driven small government enterprise web portal,
everyone would throw money at it. They might even be able to get the
United Nations involved in the research and development. Essentially, an
enterprise web portal kernel needs to be created that uses the internet as
its platform, which would allow small governments to establish open source
software development communities.

Ironically, this model would be similar to Microsoft's new .NET strategy
(http://fastlink.headstar.com/ms), under which Microsoft will provide the
systems infrastructure to deliver web services via the XML standard using
the internet as the operating system. The success of the deployment is
based on Bill Gates' notion of federation, which he described as: "The
idea that all these different systems can be connected together without
there being any unique root. A group of companies . . . can federate
without having to be connected to a Microsoft namespace or anything else
in particular."

A fundamental paradox of the open source movement is its lack of
direction, and this could be a barrier to the success of the POSS project.
But highly successful open source development models do exist, such as the
APACHE Project (http://www.apache.org). The APACHE Software Foundation has
been successful because open source programmers had a specific focus, but
were empowered by widespread collaboration.

Without a similar focus, POSS could end up becoming a mere software
dumping ground. The potentially useful stuff would have to be gleaned from
the chaff, yet it would still be deployed ad hoc. With a defined project
outcome, on the other hand, open source components already in circulation
would be strategically pooled and missing project components would be
identified for development.

The problem POSS will continue to run into will be continuous pressure
from software giants on government to withhold resources for the project.
It is certainly not in their best interest to encourage the development of
a free, replicable, interoperable and fully-customisable small enterprise
web portal. If you look at their web sites its easy to tell that they've
developed these portals already. They just want local governments to sell
their souls to use their infrastructure to support them.

It has always been my personal conviction that large enterprise
governments should be legislatively mandated to act as internet service
providers and application service providers for local governments within
their given jurisdictions. WorldComs may come and go, but governments are
perpetual entities.

Imagine. POSS Project participants would receive the personal
gratification of having their names identified with local eGovernance
deployments from Brighton to Botswana, from Beijing to Biloxi. Bill Gates
would be wetting his bloomers.

NOTE: William Mead is a web developer and e-government columnist for the
American Society for Public Administration (http://www.aspanet.org).

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