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Among the most noteworthy topics surrounding the recent widespread adoption of open-source software (OSS) are the convergence by governments worldwide to open standards and the ways in which open source embraces this convergence. There are continuing debates over the future of software and, in particular, the competition between OSS and proprietary software. Many studies by governments and by information technology analysts suggest that OSS and open standards are intimately connected and that the inherent value of open-source adoption may be attributable in large part to the embodiment of open standards in OSS. The government environment is changing rapidly in areas as diverse as homeland security and social services. Given the equally rapid changes in the information technology marketplace, the successful adoption of these new technologies by governments will depend on how well the strengths of proprietary software and OSS are understood and applied—especially with respect to the use of open standards to speed deployments of integrated capabilities that respond to emerging challenges. This paper evaluates the relative strengths of proprietary software and OSS as development techniques that embrace the open standards valued by governments.
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