US Government v. Open Source: A History and Lessons Learned

Location: E145 Level: Novice
Average rating: ****.
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There has been a great deal written about open source in the US government, but until now, there has never been a comprehensive history of how the US has grappled with the benefits and challenges of open source licensing and communities. Without this information, it’s hard to describe this relationship, and show where it’s going.

Open Source for America and Civic Commons have assembled the largest database to date of major open-source-related conferences, policies, articles, and software releases made by US government entities:

This collaboratively developed database, available as JSON, captures each of these events and tells a story about government open source adoption that will probably surprise you. With this data in hand, we can begin to answer questions like:

  • How does US government adoption of open source differ from that of the private sector?
  • Do government open source policies have any effect on open source use, or do they merely ratify adoption that’s already happening?
  • Are some kinds of policies more effective than others?
  • When did the US first start working with open source code?
  • Which agencies lead the way in adoption? What do they have in common?
  • Which kinds of government open source policies exhibit clear failure patterns?

We expect this session to be useful to anyone who would like their government to use more open source software, or who would like to work with their government on open source projects.

Photo of Karl Fogel

Karl Fogel

Open Tech Strategies, LLC

Karl Fogel is an open source software developer, author, and consultant. In 2005 he wrote “Producing Open Source Software: How to Run a Successful Free Software Project” (O’Reilly Media, online at, based partly on his experiences in the Subversion project. He has worked at CollabNet, Google, Canonical, O’Reilly Media, and Code for America / Civic Commons, all as an open source specialist. He is now a partner at Open Tech Strategies, LLC, where he helps organizations launch and engage with open source projects. He is also an Open Internet Tools Project Fellow at the New America Foundation, a member of the board of directors of the Open Source Initative, and a member of the Apache Software Foundation. He is @kfogel on and Twitter, and his home page is

Photo of Gunnar  Hellekson

Gunnar Hellekson

Red Hat

Gunnar Hellekson
Chief Technology Strategist, Red Hat Government

Gunnar Hellekson is the Chief Technology Strategist for Red Hat’s US Public Sector group, where he works with systems integrators and government agencies to encourage the use of open source software in government. He is co-chair of Open Source for America and one of Federal Computer Week’s Fed 100 for 2010. He is also an active member of the Military Open Source working group, on the SIIA Software Division Board, and sits on the Board of Advisors for CivicCommons. He is especially interested in cross-domain security, edge innovation, and interagency collaboration through the open source model.

Prior to joining Red Hat, he worked as a developer, systems administrator, and IT director for a number of Internet businesses. He has also been a business and IT consultant to not-for-profit organizations in New York City. During that time, he spearheaded the reform of safety regulations for New York State’s electrical utilities through the Jodie Lane Project.


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