Tech@State 2011: Open Source Software advocacy from the State Dept.

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Last Friday the US State Department hosted its 5th Tech@State, where technologist and diplomats unite to pursue goals in education, health, and welfare worldwide. The topic for this year was Open Source Software.

All sessions are available in Ustream. I would specially recommend the one by Maccon PhillipsDr. Linton Wells and Jeremy Allison.

The feeling is that the model has changed. It is not anymore about hiring a company to provide a closed product and give support until they stop providing service or a new one is needed. The model now is to open the data, let everyone access as much information as possible. Anyone can then build (open) products that the agencies can evaluate and use. Every agency has now the power to create such open competitions. Agencies are keen to use open source software, as they realize its has many more benefits and fewer problems. They typically hire a company to adapt the product and provide service. The extra mile comes when they liberate the improvements for everyone to use, when they adopt the winning apps on competitions, when everyone can be engaged in the innovation, and everyone benefits from it.


The conference brought together companies, NGOs, diplomats and federal agencies keen to learn from innovators and Open Source Software advocates. The spectrum was quite broad, but the agenda was concrete. Why and how should we use more Open Source Software. I was amazed to see such a positive and unique interaction. Just see this non-complete list of bios. The creator of ubiquitous SAMBA agreeing with the responsible for the White House web technology. This is good.

You can read more about the event online (like here, here or here).

Despite being inside their main building and its high security standards, it was an open and free event that I could attend. I only needed to show my passport like 5 times, be scorted (it´s becoming familiar, same for when I went to Space X, White House, SenatePentagon, NRL,  NASA JPL, State Dept) and restricted to guarded area. It was impressive to witness the activity inside these corridors of that place when Mubarak stepped down. They had CNN on the corridors. People would stop and gather around it. The moment Mubarak resigned, some staff at our meeting room (a quite impressive one where I am sure some important decision had been made) announced it and everyone clapped. Then they showed Al Jazeera on the wall screen.


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