State-Level Variations in Open Source Policies

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Baker, Paul M. A.
Noonan, Douglas S.
Seavey, Art
Moon, Nathan C.
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The open source software (OSS) model represents an alternative to traditional proprietary software usage. Yet relatively little is known about the conditions impacting policy related to OSS development, diffusion, and adoption. This paper explores the concept of a state-level open source index (SLOSI) to measure open source policy related initiatives at the state-level in the United States. One rationale for developing a SLOSI is to gauge how well a state’s (political, economic, social, technological) environment relates to its OSS policies. This metric readily lends itself to evaluating the political, social, and economic aspects of adoption of the OSS approach. The SLOSI provides a heuristic and common set of "tools" to help assess how OSS-related conditions vary from state to state. Such a metric can be especially useful in this context where indicators can be elusive. By its nature, open source technology defies easy measurement. Nonetheless, a diverse and creative set of proxy measures are identified and tested for validity. The formulation of the index addresses the conceptual complexities surrounding OSS as a product, as a production process, and even as an ideology. The index construction follows from (1) a thorough literature review on OSS in society; (2) interviews with expert informants and policymakers; (3) extensive data search and then collection; and (4) various robustness checks and efforts to estimate missing data. Our construction, by relying heavily on the published literature and on input from a community of OSS experts, fosters an inclusive development process akin to the open source development process itself. The empirical analysis of SLOSI values compares readily to variation in statelevel OSS policy environments. The paper concludes with a discussion of the ways in which this new SLOSI can be used by those in the OSS industry, those researching OSS, and, potentially, by policymakers.
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