Government of Canada Launches RFI on Open Source Software

The Goverment of Canada has launched a Request For Information on open source software.  The RFI, which closes on February 19, 2009, is designed to provide it with assistance in developing guidelines for "the acquisition, use, and disposal" of open source software.


  1. Michael Richardson says:

    No Fee Licensed Software
    It’s not about open source software. It’s about No Fee Licensed Software. That would include: adobe flash browser plugin, microsoft word OOXML viewer (runs on windows only), the google toolbar, AOL Instant Messenger, IE7…

  2. ‘No Fee’ includes open source
    It is about open source software. The definition provided explicitly refers to Free and Open Source software. The emphasis on license fees does indicate that it would also cover IE, Acrobat Reader, and other freeware, in addition to things like Firefox, Linux, Gnu etc.

    The fact that they don’t recognise any meaningful differences between proprietary freeware like IE and open source Free Software like Firefox is a little worrisome, though. It seems to indicate that they understand the financial benefits of Free Software, but not the larger issues of transparency, interoperability, open standards etc. From the link:

    Canada has a Request for Information (RFI) related to No-Charge Licensed Software (typically referred to as Free and Open Source Software or FOSS and also applicable to freeware). For the purpose of the RFI, No Charge Licensed Software means Licensed Software that is available at no charge for the Licensed Software and is typically made available as a free download from the Internet. No Charge Licensed Software may also have No Charge Software Support Services (NCSSS) available at no charge from the Internet.

  3. Mike Gifford says:

    For those who want to add their 2 cents
    I’ve added the main questions to a survey here –

    I’ll be collecting the results and submitting a response on the 19th.

  4. They still don’t get it.
    This RFI clearly indicates that they see their role as a consumer — and a consumer only. Procurement, [for free], and then use. This works in the traditional model, because the pricing supports external development and the ecosystem moves forward. Opensource is another beast. It’s a collaborative environment wherein the users actively contribute to the product for the betterment of themselves _and_ others.

    Any analysis of F/LOSS software without consideration to how the government will participate in this ecosystem is doomed to failure. There truly is no such thing as a free lunch and if the govt wants to act as a leech on this community, they’ll find themselves interacting with a hostile community disinterested in supporting them.

    On the other hand, if they were to show leadership — and actually contribute government data/dev effort in a free/collaborative manner, they’d find a community of developers ready to work for them. Sadly, I’m not holding my breath that they’ll figure out how to interface with the Stallman doctrine with questions like those found in this RFI.

  5. leeches?
    I don’t think using FLOSS without contributing makes someone a leech, or that it follows that such users constitute a drain on the community. If the Canadian government standardized on OpenOffice, Firefox etc., that would be a great boost for the community, simply by increasing the visibility and general acceptance of these products. Contributing to development would be a bonus, not a prerequisite for a positive relationship.

    I think the best thing the government could do would be to mandate that all public data/documents be stored and distributed using only standardized, unimpeded formats. That would remove the major barrier to FLOSS being evaluated on its merits, rather than on how well it manages to reverse-engineer secret formats.

  6. OpenBSD
    I have been wondering about open source in Canada for a while. The University of Calgary has the creator of OpenBSD – the most secure OS on the planet (by default) and why not use that OS. Support Canada and all!!

  7. Not just a consumer
    This is a golden opportunity to educate decision makers in Government that participants in Open Source have an obligation to contribute back to the community.

    I think it’s only obvious that they would invest some resources into development. They already have to do a fair amount of in-house development work. With Open Source software, their already paid for developer won’t be re-inventing the wheel in each department, and the Open Source licensing will make it attractive for them to release their development work publicly.

  8. Darrell Gudmundson says:

    I use NeoOffice, a Mac version of OpenOffice, and it works very well. Of course the MacOS is built on BSD Unix, so Open Source is in the woodwork. It is quite well supported, reliable, and easily available.

  9. OpenBSD has what is possibly the most open (free) license available and
    any software included with their downloads, and I believe the packages they put together have to be equal unencumbered by license restriction.

  10. National Operating Systems
    The idea of domestic software production is gaining ground.

  11. Mike Gifford says:

    Posted Response to RFI
    For those who want to read our response, it can be found here: