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09 February 2012, 15:34

State of New Hampshire votes for open source

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The legislative arm of the US state of New Hampshire has passed an act that requires the state's agencies to consider open source software for all new software acquisitions. The act itself spells out the benefits of open source over proprietary software in very clear and cogent terms, covering costs, long term data accessibility, interoperability and the use of open standards.

The act states that the cost of obtaining software and the personnel costs of maintaining it have become significant and that both of these costs can be reduced significantly by the use of open source. On long-term data accessibility, the act says that accessibility to that data should "be independent of the goodwill of the state's computer system suppliers and the conditions imposed by these suppliers". A similar point is made regarding the long-term use of software and that such use and data access should be completely within the state's control.

It points out that the encoding of data – the file formats, and so forth – is not tied to a single provider if open source is used and that open source can ensure vendor-neutral and platform-neutral use of open standards. It also says that, as the internal workings of open source software are fully disclosed, that software can be audited for the purposes of ensuring that the public's interest and rights are not violated, and that functions such as data encryption and recovery are fully within the state's control. The act defines proprietary software as "software that does not fulfill all of the guarantees provided by open source software."

The state's agencies are not forced to use open source software, but they have to consider it when making software acquisitions, and they have to do this in consultation with the state's department of information technology. Decisions have to be taken on the basis of cost, support, maintenance, training, open standards, interoperability and whether products "are known to make unauthorized transfers of information to, or permit unauthorized control of or modification of a state agency’s computer."

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