Dammit - almost giving up on the OSS dream in government
I have a dream. (It's not as good a dream as that other guys speech I admit, but it's mine)
I am not the greatest Open Source developer on the planet. My commit messages often leave a lot to be desired, and snatching a few tens of minutes between job, kids, commutes and life for coding something is never the best way, but I do have a dream.
I dream about spending my years writing code, perhaps even running services, for government. Code that actually helps people, maybe in tiny little ways. The LGSL has a list (http://oss4gov.org/lgsl) of 2,000 statutory services we have to provide - and they are almost all better off "digital". And someone has to write that, run it, secure it, improve it.
That's the dream - to spend time doing what I love (creating code) and in so doing building something that makes a public good - government services that are open.
I think the right way to do this is not to try and get employed by GDS (which is a nice thing sure, but they cannot write all the code for all the services government needs). What is going to have to happen is departments and authorities have to prime the pump, pay someone to make a kernel of a service and grow it into an open, maintained piece of real software, with community and support.
So I rather enthusiastically at first (see the sad story at http://www.oss4gov.org) and now just so-so, I try and apply for government software contracts that look likely to be real candidates for open software.
And then we get this - a "coroner management system". A replacement for a current IRIS database - Noah used one of those to count the animals. It seemed they were actually contemplating creating new code and paying for its development (as opposed to the usual "show me the existing code running in five previous government locations).
And then I got this reply in answer to my clarification question
Open Source software should be avoided as far as possible but, if used, your tender will be evaluated...
Really I despair.
No matter the efforts centrally put in, the real consumers and drivers of the billions of pounds in software are outside of GDS' reach - and this is the attitude.
I think the pump needs a lot of priming - and I think the best way now is to go find a couple of right wing dribbling billionaires from Texas and tell them that the governments of the world are slowly going to be adopting open software for their services - and the last great act of American empire will be to write the code that governments across the world will use day in and day out. No sneaky elliptic curve adjustments but just those baked in western assumptions - combined girls and boys registers for schools to use each morning, that sort of thing.
If I can't persuade 450 different authorities to give me seed money, it's going to have to be monomaniacal right wing idealogues !
Well, I got a reply
The Authority would like to retract the following wording from clarification 3.1.1 'Open Source software should be avoided as far as possible' and replace with: ’Bidders who choose to develop a product using Open Source software will have their bid evaluated in the same way as all others. If a provider choses to develop their product using open source software they need to make it clear in their submission how this software will be supported throughout the duration of the contract’
But, and it's a big but, does that mean that all bids that use any open source software are going to have to explain how their Linux hosts, their nginx and Apache servers, their php code in their proprietary repo will be supported? I doubt it.
No, it's Texan oil money for me. It's still a dream.
Refs: https://identityassurance.blog.gov.uk/2016/07/11/gov-uk-verify-for-local-government-working-out-loud/ https://governmenttechnology.blog.gov.uk/2016/12/15/next-steps-for-open-source-in-government/