Who had the first government open source policy?

Image by opensource.com
submit to reddit
(5 votes)

Brian Purchia of Burson-Marsteller has a post over on GovFresh about the value of open source to unions. His argument pivots on cost-savings. I think you could make a more expansive argument that includes risk mitigation and innovation, but describing the advantage to unions is an interesting angle I hadn’t seen before.

I noticed that Brian repeated the misunderstanding that San Francisco had the nation’s first open source policy. I don’t want to diminish his larger argument, but it’s important that we give credit where credit’s due. So for the record:

  • July 1, 2004: OMB issues OMB-04-16, making clear that open source can be used in the Federal Government
  • September 30 2009: Portland, OR is the first city to issue an open source policy.
  • October 16, 2009: The US Department of Defense CIO issues a memo reiterating that open source software is commercial software for procurement purposes, and encouraging DOD branches to include open source when they’re picking software.
  • January 7, 2010California's open source policy is published.
  • February 1, 2010San Francisco, CA issues their open source policy.

These are just what I could find, of course. If you know of others, let me know! If you’d like to see a comprehensive history of open source battles in national and state governments around the world, CSIS maintains an annual survey intuitively titled “Government Open Source Policies“. Even just skimming it, you’ll be surprised at how little progress the United States has made in open source policymaking.

Creative Commons License


David A. Wheeler's picture

On May 28, 2003, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) released its first policy memo on open source software. You can see a copy here:


gunnar's picture
Open Source Evangelist

Thanks, David. I had completely skipped the Stenbit memo. My bad.

Deb Bryant's picture


The folks at OpenMuni.org have the most comprehensive list, with links, that I've seen published.



Deb Bryant