Bureaucrats, Technocrats and Policy Cats: How the Government is turning to Open Source, and Why.

Business, Emerging Topics, Government, People
Location: Ballroom A1
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Open source shares critical values with government and public education that make them function in the ideal; meritocracy of ideas, transparency, collaboration. But where is the sweet spot in the confluence of these social, technical, and public policy ideals? What is the opportunity for the citizen developer to get involved? And would it surprise you to know that change has been quietly at work while you were still standing in line for your driver’s license?

Three panelists and the exemplary projects they represent will provide a snapshot of the impact of open source in public policy, government, and public education and why change may be a welcomed knock on their door:

The Oregon State University Open Source Lab (OSL) Public Sector program’s key initiatives include the “Government Open Source Conference” :http://www.goscon.org/, a platform for networking and collaboration amongst senior government IT managers; the Oregon Virtual School District, a project fulfilling an Oregon legislative mandate to create distance learning tools for underserved populations of students in that state; and, in the spring of 2009, revitalization of the Government Open Code Collaborative (gocc.gov), reemerging as the social network for government agencies interested in open collaboration. All initiatives rely on open source software stacks and employ community-building for government IT professionals. The OSL is home to growing, high-impact open source communities. Its world-class hosting services have enabled Linux, Apache, Firefox and over 50 other leading open source software projects to reach millions of users.

“Democracy Lab’s”:http://www.democracylab.org/ mission is to create a non-partisan, non-profit web platform dedicated to improving the democratic process by enabling the exploration, organization, communication, and synthesis of the values, positions, and policies affecting humanity. It could be described as an open source online think tank. They consider themselves an experiment in direct democracy, powered by open source software, and built on the idea that technology can empower us to harness freedom of speech and the power of the vote to solve today’s most challenging problems.

The mission of the Open Source Digital Voting Foundation”:http://www.OSDV.org/ is to provide the resources, structure, and organization that enable a core team of senior technologists, combined with a virtual community of volunteers, to actually design and develop truly trustworthy e-voting technology in a transparent open source manner. To make that happen, the OSDV is a 501.c.3 public benefit organization funded philanthropists, social venture capitalists, and the general public. And its flagship effort to achieve its mission is the TrustTheVote™ Project. OSDV considers itself to be one of the first Ditgital Public Works Projects, working with a range of volunteers and with state and local election officials to define the requirements for a national specification for open source election systems.

Some of the questions the panelist will consider include:

  • What are the openings for open source in the public sector?
  • How are open standards and open source playing in government transparency?
  • How are cultural bridges being built between open source communities and government technology needs, to the public benefit?
  • Will economic influences drive more adoption of open source software and shared development projects between government agencies?
  • Should government drive open standards, or should the marketplace take the lead?
  • Where will the opportunities be for small, agile companies and developers to participate in this sea change of government technology acquisition?
Photo of Deborah Bryant

Deborah Bryant

Red Hat

Deborah Bryant is Public Sector Communities Manager at Oregon State University’s Open Source Lab (OSU OSL), where she advocates and creates collaboration between public, private and academic concerns in pursuit of the successful adoption of open source technology and models. She leads OSL’s production of the annual Government Open Source Conference (GOSCON), the preeminent event and platform for collaboration amongst government IT management at all levels of government.

Deborah’s interest in open source and its implication for government is reflected in her civic involvement; she serves as a Board Director for DemocracyLab.org; on the Board of Advisors for the Open Source Digital Voting Foundation (OSDV.org) ; on the Oregon Statewide Distance Learning Advisory Council. Government transparency is a personal passion. She is also an elected official, serving as Commissioner in a local special services district.

Deborah’s government background started with the Oregon State Legislature during the Year 2000 legislative session and continued at Oregon’s Department of Administrative Services for five years where she served as Manager of Enterprise Strategic Planning and Policy in the Office of the State CIO and also as Deputy State CIO. During the Year 2002 legislative session she represented the State’s Executive Branch position on proposed Open Source legislation and earned a reputation for an open, constructive approach to working with diverse and often conflicting views.

Prior to entering the public sector, Deborah held management positions in several emerging technology areas; parallel and high-speed computing and commercialized internet and web applications in the 80s, commercial wide area networks, advanced telecommunications and data/voice convergence in the 90s.

About OSU OSL: The Open Source Lab is home to growing, high- impact open source communities. Its world-class hosting services power the Linux operating system, Apache Web server, Drupal content management system and over 50 other leading open source software projects now changing the face of computing.

Bjorn Freeman-Benson


Bjorn Freeman-Benson

Board Director, Democracy Lab

Director, Committer Community, Eclipse Foundation

While striving to be a Renaissance Man, Bjorn keeps falling back into the clutches of conformity with engineering stereotypes such as dynamic languages, software engineering, juggling and general aviation. His escape attempts have been through orienteering, bicycling, planting trees and painting his airplane. He is passionate about doing things instead of just talking about them, and he thoroughly enjoys the annual party he helps organize for the Eclipse community.

You can read Bjorn’s blog at http://eclipse-projects.blogspot.com/.
Photo of Greg Lund-Chaix

Greg Lund-Chaix


Greg Lund-Chaix is developer and project manager at the Oregon State University Open Source Lab. Greg’s current project is the Oregon Virtual School District. The OVSD is a joint project with the Oregon Department of Education to provide digital teaching and learning resources to Oregon public school teachers. Greg is also a mentor and organization administrator for the Google Summer of Code, where he managed the OSL’s participation in the mentoring of students learning to participate in the open source community. Prior to joining OSU, Greg spent the previous 12 years as a developer and systems administrator on various distance learning and telecommunications systems for the Oregon Department of Administrative Services.

Photo of Clay Johnson

Clay Johnson


Clay Johnson is the author of The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption, and director of engagement for Expert Labs. He was the co-founder of Blue State Digital, the firm that built and managed Barack Obama’s online campaign for the presidency in 2008. After leaving Blue State, Johnson was the director of Sunlight Labs at the Sunlight Foundation, where he built an army of 2000 developers and designers to build open source tools to give people greater access to government data. He was awarded the Google/O’Reilly Open Source Organizer of the year in 2009, was one of Federal Computing Week’s Fed 100 in 2010, and won the CampaignTech Innovator award in 2011.

Johnson’s combination of experience as a developer, working in politics, entrepreneurism, and non-profit work gives him a unique perspective on media and culture. His life is dedicated to giving people greater access to the truth about what’s going on in their communities, their cities and their governments. He still claims that he learned all he needs to know from a two year tour as the late-shift waiter at Waffle House in Atlanta, GA.

Photo of Aleksandar Totic

Aleksandar Totic

Open Source Digital Voting Foundation

Aleks Totic is a member of the OSDV Core Team. He dove into open source
and startups at grad school in ’93 by writing MacMosaic, and has been part of
the open source/startups/investments vortex since. He has been interested in
modernization of our election system since 2003, had a polling place in his
garage, and wrote an online election system for FairVote. He loves having
lots of users of his code, and is looking forward to deploying its
TrustTheVote system.

Comments on this page are now closed.


Picture of Deborah Bryant
Deborah Bryant
07/24/2009 2:06pm PDT

Hi David, we’re working on hunting down the videographer, will share the link as soon as we find. Thanks for asking!

David James
07/23/2009 9:16am PDT

Someone from the audience was recording… would you mind sharing a link to your video?

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