Only one-third of agencies pass the Federal Open Technology Report Card

Learn from the Defense Dept. on how your developers can contribute to open source projects and protect your organization

Open Source for America (OSFA) recently published a report card on open technology and open government across several U.S. federal government departments and agencies. The results: One-third of agencies received a passing grade. OSFA, a coalition launched in July 2009 to encourage U.S. federal government support of and participation in open source projects and technologies, worked with government departments and agencies to develop the methodology and rate each group. (According to OSFA, 2010 marked the first year federal government agencies were operating under the Directive and Open Government Plans.)

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The 2010 Federal Open Technology Report Card measures 15 federal departments and agencies on their progress against goals supported by the open government directive. The report card measures use of open source technologies, open formats, and technology tools for citizen engagement. Agencies with scores of greater than 50 percent included:

  • Department of Defense (82 percent)
  • Department of Energy (72 percent)
  • Department of Health and Human Services (55 percent)
  • Department of Homeland Security (55 percent)
  • Department of Transportation (53 percent)

The remaining 10 agencies and departments scored between 49 and 37 percent. Said differently, only one-third of agencies and departments evaluated received a passing grade. Take a look at OSFA's criteria, specifically the open technologies questions, to see if your company would fare better than these 10 agencies and departments.

The Department of Defense (DoD) achieved the highest ranking, with a score of 23 out of a possible 28, and stands out in the report card for several reasons.

First, the DoD has documented policies for selecting and acquiring what the report identifies as open technologies. This includes both open source products and products that offer open file formats. Second, the DoD provides guidance for employees wanting to participate in open source projects. Although these two policies would appear to meet minimum requirements for today's IT department, they don't.

Recall results from the 2010 Eclipse User Survey that identified a strikingly low proportion of companies allowing their employees to contribute to open source projects. It could be argued that those companies, like the DoD, have an open source contribution policy. Unlike the DoD, these companies simply state that no contributions are allowed -- hardly the type of policy that developers will get excited about.

IT decision makers are encouraged to follow in the DoD's example and set a policy, along with related processes and safeguards, for employees to contribute to open source projects. Consider using offerings and best practices from vendors such as Black Duck Software and Protecode to ensure that your developers are contributing and consuming open source code in a fashion that protects your company's intellectual property rights and prevents copyright infringement. Doing so will keep your developers happy and help encourage innovation, within and outside of your company -- a win-win-win strategy.

Follow me on Twitter at SavioRodrigues. I should state: "The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions."

This article, "Only one-third of agencies pass the Federal Open Technology Report Card," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Savio Rodrigues' Open Sources blog and follow the latest developments in open source at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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