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W.H. Reminds Agencies to Abide by "Technology Neutrality"

BY Nancy Scola | Friday, January 7 2011

This afternoon, the White House issued a memo reiterating to federal agencies its support for the "technology neutrality" approach to government IT procurement, one that encourages the consideration of tech without biases against open-source options. Here's a taste of the memo, signed by so-called IP czar, Victoria Espinel, CIO Vivek Kundra, and Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy Daniel Gordon:

The Federal Acquisition Regulation and Office of Management and Budget Circulars AII and A-130 guide agency information technology IT decisions, an10ng other things. The policies in these documents are built around the use of merit-based requirements development and evaluation processes that promote procurement choices based on performance and value, and free of preconceived preferences based on how the technology is developed, licensed or distributed. In the context of developing requirements and planning acquisitions for software, for example, this means, as a general matter, that agencies should analyze alternatives that include proprietary, open source, and mixed source technologies. This allows the Government to pursue the best strategy to meet its particular needs.

Accordingly, as program, IT, acquisition, and other officials work together to develop requirements and plan acquisitions, they should follow technology neutral principles and practices. This means selecting suitable IT on a case-by-case basis to meet the particular operational needs of the agency by considering factors such as performance, cost, security, interoperability, ability to share or re-use, and availability of quality support.

All technology used must be properly licensed in accordance with applicable laws.

(So why the memo, and why today? It's not entirely clear yet, but a smart source points out a related news item in the space: yesterday Google won a preliminary injunction in a case where it had argued that the U.S. Department of the Interior had inappropriately geared a nearly $60 million contract for cloud-based email and collaboration software tools to fit only Microsoft's proprietary products. Again, though, we're indulging in a bit of speculation here, and it's worth pointing out that Google's revelant products aren't themselves open-source.)

By the way, if you'd like to stay instantly up on such developments, you might try following Kundra's new Twitter feed. He's only tweeted three times thus far, but once was an indeed a pointer to this memo. "Open source vs proprietary?," he posted. Follow @VivekKundra here.