Open Source Usage Policies

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See also Open Source Release Policies

List of government policies about using open source software -- i.e., policies about when open source solutions should be considered, either through in-house deployment or deployed by a contractor. We appreciate any help in updating this list, and of course we do not represent it to be complete.

For policies about creating new open source software, either by procurement from a contractor or by government developers writing the code themselves, see Open Source Release Policies.



Case Studies

North America



The Open Source Initiative

Both California and Vermont cite the Open Source Initiative (Bruce Perens') Open Source definition:


Two points to notice here are based on the words "equal" and "commercial." The word "equal" gives these policies some measurable way of ensuring and benchmarking open source as part of the procurement process. The use of the word "commercial" as the opposite of "open source" is misleading since it implies that open source software is by definition non-commercial. A more accurate term to serve as the opposite of "open source" would be "proprietary" but terminology should really be defined as part of the policy ("closed source" isn't quite right, because it implies that the source code is inaccessible, which is not always the case even with proprietary software; "proprietary" is the most precise antonym for "open source").


The City of Vancouver, when replacing existing software or considering new applications, will place open source software on an equal footing with commercial systems during procurement cycles. (Citation needed.)


Establish best practices for analysis of business requirements in software review and selection processes, identify existing commercial software systems with licenses that are scheduled to expire in the near future, and encourage the consideration of Open Source Software in the review, replacement and continual improvement of business solutions; (Citation needed.)

San Francisco

The Software Evaluation Policy will require departments to consider open source alternatives, when available, on an equal basis to commercial software, as these may reduce cost and speed the time needed to bring software applications to production. San Francisco COIT Software Evaluation Policy

Other References