David A. Wheeler reports
that the US state of New Hampshire has passed an act requiring state
agencies to consider open source software, promote the use of open data
formats, and it requires the commissioner of information technology (IT) to
develop an open government data policy. "First, here’s what it says about open source software (OSS): “For all software acquisitions, each state agency… shall… Consider whether proprietary or open source software offers the most cost effective software solution for the agency, based on consideration of all associated acquisition, support, maintenance, and training costs…”. Notice that this law does not mandate that the state government must always use OSS. Instead, it simply requires government agencies to consider OSS. You’d think this would be useless, but you’d be wrong. Fairly considering OSS is still remarkably hard to do in many government agencies, so having a law or regulation clearly declare this is very valuable. Yes, closed-minded people can claim they “considered” OSS and paper over their biases, but laws like this make it easier for OSS to get a fair hearing. The law defines “open source software” (OSS) in a way consistent with its usual technical definition, indeed, this law’s definition looks a lot like the free software definition. That’s a good thing; the impact of laws and regulations is often controlled by their definitions, so having good definitions (like this one for OSS) is really important.
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