Monday, November 3, 2008

Open Source Advice for the next President of the United States - Part I

It’s November 3, and I (like so many other Americans and others around the world) breathlessly await the results of tomorrow’s U.S. Presidential election. Regardless of your party affiliation, political ideals, or social leanings, you must acknowledge the historical significance of this election. Americans will elect either the first African American President or the first female Vice President. Most importantly, perhaps, U.S. citizens will appoint a leader who will inherit so much of what has gone right and wrong with American politics, foreign relations, economic policy, market regulation, and the very gravitas of the sole, remaining Superpower. What do you think? Will America once again find its mojo under the inspired leadership of either John McCain or Barack Obama? We’ll see.

In the meantime, I’ve thought long and hard about some specific advice for America’s next president. And, I’ve decided to collect these thoughts under an “open source” banner, believing that building community, transparency and more rapid advancement is not only good for software products, but for nation-building as well. So, here goes – my advice for the next President of the United States . . .
Fix the U.S. economy. It’s true that the global economy is more intricately connected now than ever. But, as President, your first responsibility is to get America back on its economic track. Remember that, at more than an estimated $14 trillion in 2008, the U.S. GDP still represents nearly 25% of the global GDP. So, in many ways, as the U.S. economy goes, so goes that of the world. Overcoming the current financial markets collapse, getting people back to work, and moderating spiraling prices in staples (such as energy, food) and other expenses (healthcare) should be top-priority. Don’t waste any time here. Appoint to Cabinet positions the nation’s best and brightest to craft creative solutions and track their progress until GDP is growing 4% annually.
Build the Global Community. There is no telling how much foreign relations ground we’ve lost in the past decade or more. But, as President, you must focus on the future – and re-building America’s standing among all nations will likely be your greatest, enduring challenge. In open source software, our existence is owed to building strong community and so I urge you to remember that building great community means to first be a great community member. To do so may mean letting go of some of the pride and proprietary thinking that has plagued many of your predecessors. Embracing a new level of transparency in policy and chivalry in character will serve you and your country well in reaching out anew to a world that deserves and wants a respectful role model.
While the world is a global village, there is a domestic aspect to building community. Technology has penetrated so many facets of our lives and has had a profound impact on the "flattening" of economies around the world. Yet, the U.S. government and its leaders have not integrated into their work what we in the technology call “Web 2.0”. Can you imagine a world where citizens and leaders at all levels could communicate openly in online forums made possible with open source software? I would call this “OneWorldForge” and the implications for governance are profound. As President, you can lead this online change and build the world’s largest and strongest community, starting with the United States as the example.
[this post continues in the next entry . . . ]

Open Source Advice for the next President of the United States - Part II

[This post continues from the one above]

Invest in the Future. America is a nation of builders and innovators. The strength of the economy and the very psyche of the country are founded on innovation. But, you surely know that the number of U.S. college graduates focused on science and math have been declining for two decades. As we approach 2010, the U.S.’s distinction as a top generator of the world’s best engineers, scientists, and mathematicians is clearly threatened. To maintain the country’s storied reputation, re-institute the government-sponsored scholarship and grants process so that more students will continue on with their education and choose technical subjects as their field. Also, re-enable private student loans and corporate tax credits (with special incentives), especially for those students focused on continuing education in the technical fields. It may take another decade to really pay-off, but there are no more beneficial long-term programs that will fuel America’s future.
Demand better technology in Government. The U.S. Federal Government, by and large, is known for spending more and getting less from technology than practically any other organization. This is despite a byzantine set of spending and procurement policies and rules which were ironically designed to do the opposite. Here, I can offer one incredibly useful tip: require that all U.S. government organizations consider open source software alternatives wherever they exist. Some European governments have been doing so for several years and are already reaping tremendous cost and technology advantages as a result. If you need any specific advice about open source business intelligence software, there is a community of technology innovators pushing the envelope and I, as well as many others, would be happy to share our knowledge.
I am sure that your first few months in office will be grueling. As you take the helm of the largest economy and most influential country in the world, remember there is good news and bad news. The good news is that the conflict and war in Iraq seem to be improving, which should give you more time to focus on the advice I’m providing here. The bad news is that if the good news is Iraq, you’ve got a tough road ahead of you. I wish you good luck. And, God bless America.
Brian Gentile
Chief Executive Officer