Apr 22, 2011

Government agencies: cut future IT spend - share costs, invest in open source

Open letter to Minister of State for Public Service Reform, Mr. Brian Hayes TD

Hi Brian,
I would like to share a quick response to my reading of the Irish times article: State to demand price cuts from suppliers to reduce €16bn bill.

In order to best serve the needs of the Irish people right now and into the future, you need to seriously consider open source IT solutions. Across all departments and across all of Europe, government IT departments should be collectively investing in free open source solutions that solve their common IT needs.

Investment in open source IT solutions seeds innovation and is a commitment to shared future value. Investment in proprietary IT solutions is an innovation tax and a commitment to repetition.
This is not some sort of Marxist rant; open source is the best way to innovate. Open source software is a key reason amazon, google, twitter, facebook etc. emerged; they stand on the shoulders of giants.

I imagine this would mean a small shift in how government IT is organised. You would need to extract real value from the smart people therein. Rather than out sourcing decisions to global consultancy companies, you allow a shared need to be met from within.
You enable innovation, by allowing smart individuals to take ownership of both the problem and the solution and most importantly, to share the fruit of their labour.

The bottom line is this, all of the government departments have IT needs in common, they are much more alike than they wish to admit. The also share these needs with other governments thoroughout Europe.
There is no reason to constantly reinvent the wheel. We just need to enable people to share and evolve the best designs. Open source provides the freedom and motivation to do just that.

Apr 10, 2011

Consider Unhosted and open source for eHealth and eGov #DERIopenDay

DERI Galway produced an insightful open day on their developments in the semantic web of linked data. While I listened, two thoughts kept recurring that I want to explore. Chances are I am preaching to the choir but shucks, just in case I am not...

For a web architecture of the future look at Unhosted
At the root of the problem of siloed data and fragmentation (the database hugging phenomena) is the issue of ownership. Institutions have data that they don't really own because that data is of a personal nature. The collection of data is theirs, but not the individual components.
With Unhosted, the ownership problem is turned on its head. Users and aggregators of data only have a 'handle' (a URI) to personal data. A handle that is only useable with permission. Collections of data containing 'handles' can safely be shared. Granted, lots of issues need to be ironed out, but I think the architecture is on the right track and the concept is bang on.

Open source your research
Lots of what you do is plumbing. For new plumbing to be broadly adopted it needs to be better and it needs to be cheap. Publish and be damned. If the research is great the plumbing will proliferate at very little cost. If it does proliferate, you continue to research and innovate and profit above the new infrastructure, it is all good. If it does not proliferate..., well open source was not the problem!

Enterprise Ireland: open source can be a viable business model for shared infrastructure research. It is a world of constant iterative improvement. The profits are smaller but the rewards are greater because simply put, value shared is value multiplied.
In essence, open innovation puts the focus on execution rather than protection, if puts everyone on the front foot.