Government investment in open source makes sense as a way of reducing the cost of government service delivery.
The model is this – a government agency invests a sum of money to benefit a government sector e.g. education, health, social service delivery etc. As long as the software is open source, the government sector gets a multiplier effect – any further development of the software in other countries will further benefit education, health, social service delivery etc in the original country.
“This has certainly been New Zealand’s experience with Moodle, a GPL licenced online learning management system. A few years ago Moodle was a nice platform, had a good development community and a few hundred sites. A New Zealand TEC fund was used to add a number of features, not least amongst these were some very solid enterprise and performance capabilities.
Moodle is now used in over 13,000 sites and must be the world’s most popular LMS. Investment from institutions such as the UK’s Open University has now well exceeded NZ’s initial investment. Yet because of the GPL New Zealand still gets to benefit from other peoples’ significant work.” (New Zealand Open Source Society 2007)
Now imagine if there was a hypothetical open source program that could be used throughout the education sector (senior secondary, polytechs, universities), across a myriad of smaller organisations that supply social services on behalf of government, and across the private sector as well. It enables everything from the teaching of statistics through to routine management reporting. A bit of assistance in its further development could have a large spin-off. Makes you think.