Former Massachusets CIO vocal about open source

Quinn to push free-software-is-good-for-goverment message at Sydney Linux conference

Former Massachusetts state government CIO Peter Quinn believes that any technology leader, in the public or private sector, who is not supporting and implementing open standards should resign.

Quinn is the newest addition to the list of speakers at Linux World scheduled to begin in Sydney tomorrow.

Speaking about the policy, planning and pragmatic reasons for the Massachusetts move into open source, Quinn hopes to inspire CIOs to take similar steps. He will trace his own journey as CIO of Massachusetts and use real-life examples.

“The most pragmatic reason is that the cost of government is just not sustainable in its present form,” he says.

“As well as being cheaper, open source software is higher in quality and more secure. Plus security breaches tend to get fixed more quickly because of the number of eyes on the issue.”

Quinn will also speak about some recent changes in the industry, including the formation of the OpenDocument Format (ODF) Alliance of more than 35 vendors, announced earlier this month.

“The ODF Alliance is very significant and a much needed shot in the arm for document format freedom,” he says. “I sincerely believe it will change the entire landscape of this issue.

“It would have made a significant difference [to my work last year] due to the sheer number and influence of its membership. Who knows what difference it would have made in my life,” he says.

Quinn had been behind a drive to change the state’s computers so that they would no longer store documents in proprietary formats such as those used by Microsoft Office and Lotus Notes. Under a proposal drafted by Quinn’s IT department, Massachusetts would begin a move to the OpenDocument file format, an open, XML-based format used by a variety of products including IBM Workplace and StarOffice.

His work was made difficult, he says, after a report in the Boston Globe newspaper questioned the appropriateness of his out-of-state trips to technology conferences.

Although an investigation found that Quinn had done nothing wrong, this caused him to become the centre of attention and scandal.

“It was politics, pure and simple. I had become a lightening rod for all things IT, and it was gutting the authority of the office of the CIO.

“It just wasn’t fun anymore.”

Given his time again, Quinn says there isn’t much he would have done differently, except maybe to have worked a little more closely with the Massachusets state legislators.

Quinn resigned from office on January 9 and plans to continue speaking at as many forums as possible while he looks for his next job opportunity. He has already spoken at forums in Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Spain and Puerto Rico.

Even though the personal toll from his state government experience was huge, Quinn says he will not be silenced.

“I will remain very vocal and prominent regarding open standards, open source, especially OpenDocument Format and all aspects of accessibility for the disabled community.”

Linux World, which is being held in Australia for the first time, runs from March 28 to March 30.

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