Jesse Brown: Government strangely closed about open source

By Jesse Brown, CBC technology columnist.

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Earlier this month Canadian techies were excited to learn that our federal government was taking a serious look at open source software.

Public Works and Government Services Canada put out a public Request For Information on the topic. Some questioned their approach- Russell McOrmand said that the department was acting “as if they they were out to buy a truck”. He argued that open source software ”is a human resource issue as much as it is a product."

But most saw it as a step in the right direction. Why should the government pay huge licence fees to Microsoft for buggy, closed, proprietary tools, when Canadians themselves have helped build better (and free) mousetraps?

I thought it was a good move too, and was excited to finally do a positive story about our government’s approach to tech. For once we’d be leading the pack, not lagging miserably behind! But I may have gotten excited too soon...

I pinged Jeff Braybrook for an interview. Braybrook is Canada’s Deputy Chief Technology Officer for the Treasury Board Secretariat- he’s spoken at Third Tuesday and a bunch of other cool conferences, and has been publicly enthusiastic about open source. He seemed excited to talk to me, but needed to steer me through the proper government media wranglers for clearance.

It’s a headache, but such is life when dealing with government. I figured the interview would take a few days longer than usual to set-up, but I wasn’t really worried about not getting it - this was a positive piece, after all!

A full week after I put in my interview request, word came back from the Treasury Board’s media relations dude: no interview with Jeff, no explanation why not.

It seems we may still be a few steps away from open government…