Over at the OSR Group’s website we just announced that I have joined the scientific advisory board of OpenSAGA, a soon to be released open source infrastructure project for eGovernment services. (SAGA is German for Standards and Architectures for eGovernment Applications so it is somewhat Germany centric.) OpenSAGA was started by one company, Quinscape GmbH, which has carried all of the development costs so far. It is a project with substantial potential. It could aid in the faster creation of better and more innovative eGovernment services in Germany and beyond.
From a public policy, commercial, and research perspective, however, significant challenges exist: We all want the software to be sustainable. Hence, the project founders need to receive a commensurate return on their investment, the involved software firms need to receive steady revenue streams and protection of their intellectual property, and local German governments and the public need software that works well and can serve as a base for new innovative applications.
I consider aligning these interests a challenge, because they are not all pointing into the same direction. For example, a pure single-vendor commercial open source model would forego the collective intelligence that arises when software is developed openly, without artificial barriers to contributing and joining the project. A pure community open source approach has unclear consequences on the return on investment for the project founders and may stifle future commercially motivated innovation.
I have joined OpenSAGA’s scientific advisory board to help figure out how to lead the project to sustainability while maximizing the benefits for the involved parties, including German society. Not an easy task, but a worthwhile one! As always, please let me know your thoughts.