I attended and participated in the Government Open Source Conference or GOSCON this week; the kid brother of O'Reilly's OSCON, and little nephew of O'Reilly's Gov2.0 Summit. But don't kid yourself: GOSCON is quickly coming of age and gaining an interesting crowd. Over the next couple of posts, I'll reflect on [a] my Panel about the Challenges and Opportunities of Transparency in Government OSS projects; [b] share a recap of a 30-minute interview with OpenAffairs TV, and [c] have a thing or two to blather about regarding our receipt of an "Excellence Award" (some have been calling it a "Codie" ...I dunno about that one) from the Open Source for America Foundation.
To the latter point, we were in good company: the other recipients included Brian Behlendorf, a supporter of the OSDV Foundation incidentally; Ean Schuessler; and Whitehouse.Gov and their development team, complete with a video acceptance as they could not make it to Portland, Oregon for the conference.
A couple of random comments.
A Sustainable Open Source Lab. First, I was pleased to hear that Oregon State University (the other Oregon PAC-10 School not to be confused with #1 poll ranked University of Oregon; home of the Mighty Fighting Ducks, and yes, my alma mater)... anyway, that OSU has determined the importance of open source technology needs to be elevated and has created the "Open Source Institute" (so new I can't find a link to it yet), a venture of the OSU School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. And they have subsumed the Open Source Lab thereby elevating OSL's visibility, funding efforts, and resourcing efforts.
A Congressional Leader who "Gets it." Second, I was very pleased to hear of Congressman David Wu's (D OR) interest and commitment to open source technology for government. He was a scheduled keynoter, but had to cancel due to a virus and a need to be as healthy as possible in the final days of campaigning for his re-election to the House. I spoke with the Congressman earlier this week and of course, he is one of the members of Congress who over sees NIST. And of course, NIST plays a role in elections systems certification. And we discussed the antiquated if not soon to be obsolete certification model and process currently in place. Congressman Wu, a former venture capitalist with a great deal of tech sector acumen "gets" 3 important concepts: [a] open source; [b] the need for a more agile certification process that provides for a modularized approach rather than the current monolithic system model approach; and [c] the notion that elections technology ought to be considered "critical democracy infrastructure." Should he retain his seat in the House, I have been led to believe we will see a growing interest in these three matters within the halls of Congress.
A Shirt-Sleeves "Get-r-Done" Audience. Gov 2.0 Summit brings together some of the biggest thought leaders in the world of IT Innovation for Government. The attendees and participants are name-brand industry stalwarts in government, technology policy, digital technology companies, and academia. Compare and contrast that to GOSCON. What I like about this week's conference is, similar to Gov 2.0 Summit, it gathers a very focused audience. GOSCON attendees appeared to me to be the heart-and-soul of change in government I.T. Attendees this week were actual IT workers, managers, and leaders in government. Specifically, this included those who are specifically engaged in IT work. They may not have authored books, appeared on the biggest stages, or have global responsibilities, but they are in key leadership positions and decision makers within States and Federal agencies. I liked this because I witnessed lots of interactions about the actual internal workings of I.T. organizations in these agencies, their interest, opportunities, challenges, and requirements of open source technology, and discussions at the point of implementation. Gov 2.0 sets vision; and GOSCON, in my opinion focuses on the nuts and bolts of OSS, what it takes to turn vision into reality, and how OSS in Government gets done. Nice.
A Viable Voice for the Rest of Us. Finally, I want to mention that the Open Source for America Foundation is a rapidly emerging force in the Gov 2.0 and digital democracy movement. I had the pleasure of chatting with two of their executives; one who in my humble opinion might just give Jimmy Fallon a run for his money, and is my pick for an industry-specific comedian. But seriously for a moment, I learned about their work in more detail, and OSFA will be a strong voice for the rest of us in the movement to re-invent government I.T.. OSDV Foundation is becoming a member of OSFA and we will continue to be a backer of their cause.