Open Source in Government: Newport News, Va.


I spent three very hot weeks in Newport News, VA in August of 1983. I was doing some training at Newport News Naval Shipyard which forever changed my perception of the term "complex engineering project." Tim Adelstein has an interview at O'Reilly with Andy Stein, the CIO of Newport News (the town, not the shipyard) on his use of open source software in local government and the Open Government Interoperability Project. Leading up to the interview, Tom says:

A recent study by a city of 200,000 residents concluded that a computer upgrade would cost $30 million over a three-year period. Multiply that by as many as 20,000 cities and the hit to the economy starts looking significant. As we know, the only way to pay for such an upgrade involves increases in taxes, levies, and bonds. In our system, leaving those funds in the hands of the citizens has a better economic effect than trying to shove them through a bureaucracy.

Yes, its a lot of money. Vendors will always complain when the government starts a project like this saying "government shouldn't be competing with private industry." But the fact of the matter is, that all that money comes from somewhere and that somewhere is your pocket. I think open source software could save government millions of dollars and as a tax payer, I like that idea.