Tech@State: Open Source

Posted by Susan Swart
February 11, 2011
Network Cables and Plugs

About the Author: Susan Swart serves as Chief Information Officer for the U.S. Department of State.

We are welcoming over 400 participants to today's Tech@State conference in Washington, DC, and we look forward to participation from many more American and International citizens through the live video stream available at www.ustream.tv/channel/tech-state. This conference is important to us for many reasons: one of the most important to me is that it creates an opportunity for dialogue among government, nonprofit, private sector, and academia about the ways we can work together to create a healthy community for open source innovation.

From its beginnings the Department of State has always been an information organization, but with technology, the telegram, the satellite and the fiber optic link, the business of diplomacy has evolved. We understand that in crafting foreign policy and working with our partners abroad that technology is the key enabler of our information enterprise. As technology moves ahead, we must keep pace. Our challenge today is to create and manage interoperable information systems that can link to our sister agencies and foreign and domestic partners.

In meeting this challenge, we are looking to new options to simplify the management and processing of information. We'll do this in two ways: first, by using a broad strategy consistent with a merit-based approach to technology. This means that we'll continue to use a combination of proprietary and open source software, and when necessary integrate and develop custom components to deliver the sorts of specialized functionality needed by diplomacy. We'll also continue to support the spirit of an open source culture and place emphasis on sharing information responsibly. Both of these are activities that State has encouraged for nearly a decade and will redouble our efforts upon.

We are deeply impressed by the broad international collaboratives that produce open source software and their capacity to self-organize and deliver results. These international organizations provide lessons to learn and will be important partners in meeting the pressing problems of our turbulent world.

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