Open Source Awards compared, contrasted with US thinking

Open source software 'defining feature' of the software industry, says ICT minister

Having the Open Source Awards presentation ceremony last night, on the same night as the US election results were announced, allowed some analogies to be made between the spirit of open source and democracy.

In both systems, everyone is welcome to make a contribution and the profit motive is absent, said Awards judge and senior advisor at the Inland Revenue Department, Austin Sinclair, introducing the award for Open Source use in government.

ICT Minister Amy Adams did her best in a short speech to assure the audience of open-source champions that government does recognise the potential of free open-source software as “a defining feature of the software industry” – an industry which, in itself, she says, is an increasingly prominent element of the New Zealand economy.

Vikram Kumar, CEO of InternetNZ, struck a less optimistic note, referring to the clear message from the open-source community and other technology developers to the government that software should not be governed by patent. After a positive result from the Commerce Select Committee, there is now a danger than through Supplementary Order Papers in Parliament, the initiative could be watered down. “Government may not deliver what we asked of them” unless pressure is kept up, he warned.

Finalists in this, the fourth Open Source Awards, were all of a high standard, and any one of them could have been a winner, said Catalyst’s Don Christie, one of the prime movers of the OS Awards series.

It could be argued, he said, that picking winners is not in the open-source spirit, but an awards ceremony provides important recognition for the culture of collaborative development – an antithesis to the “Hollywood driven intellectual-property maximalism” which would have technological developments tied up in individual hands.

The winners for the 11 categories are listed below:

Government: GNS Science for GeoNet Rapid earthquake reporting.

Business: Totara LMS: version of the Moodle learning platform.

Education: Manaiakalani project, covering nine Decile 1A schoold in Auckland.

Arts: Whisper Down The Lane: a project amplifying on an art exhibition in Wellington’s City Gallery.

Software Project: Piwik: Open source alternative to Google Analytics for measuring web traffic.

Individual Open Source Contributor: Grant McLean

Social Services: SoupHub, and Wellington City Council for Housing Computer Hubs (joint winners); providing internet access for soup kitchen patrons and Council housing tenants.

Open Science:  GNS Science for their GeoNet Data Policy.

Special Recognition Award: Nathan Parker and Warrington School (New Zealand’s first open-source school).

Clinton Bedogni Prize for Open Systems: François Marier, Mozilla.

People’s Choice Award: SOFA Statistics suite.

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