Public Money, Private Code

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This the name of a new advocacy initiative in Australia by contract programmer Kurt Linghor — focusing on open source adoption in the public sector down under.

The fledgling effort, found online at, seeks to create online report cards on varying levels of government organizations usage of open source solutions. Linghor hopes to achieve this through conducting interviews with IT managers across these institutions.

Advocacy has done a great deal of good for the open source community over the years, however, as open source matures and becomes viable enterprise material, we also have to tread carefully. Not quaking in our boots at the feet of massive proprietary vendors, but considering the commercial enterprises we seek to invest in our open source endeavors. As much as it may be unpleasant, it remains an issue of perception and presentation in getting past technical managers to executive buy-in for adoption. How we advocate and inquire impacts how those holding corporate checkbooks react to our solicitations.

That said, Linghor comes on a bit strong in his media release announcing the scope of Public Money, Private Code. According to Linghor, the information and systems which run our society should not be at the mercy of peddlers of
proprietary software. This may turn off some technical managers who cannot take comments like that to their superiors.

In fairness, Linghor’s basis for the project is quite sound. He believes the debate is stuck in a total cost of ownership (TCO) debate (true). “It is much more than a monetary issue,” he said. He believes the core issue to continue promoting is the process of peer review of open source software, largely insuring proper revisions for security and vulnerability prevention.

I am very interested in seeing the reports Linghor develops. This fits in with other organizations studying public sector adoption of open source technology, blogged earlier here.

Clearly the adoption rate in government and research will impact commercial adoption as open source solutions are proven enterprise ready. Perhaps Linghor’s effort will catch on and we will see either continental or country-based satellite nodes of Public Money, Private Code, which would begin to establish an ‘open’ research base for all to utilize.

As a disclaimer (maybe?) I am a proponent of mixed platform integration. In my more than 12 years at all levels of technology, I have yet to see a single platform architecture work properly other than in small web deployments or in networks of 25 systems or less. It is a fact of life that most of us will interact with heterogeneous environments in the course of administration, design and development.

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