There’s some chatter in the internets this morning about Hungary “boosting” open source use by requiring all their civil servants to spend equal amounts of money on open source software and proprietary software. According to the linked article this “will be the first time that open source will gain equal status with proprietary vendors in centralised public sector tenders.”
Of course, the problem is that open source is only gaining equal status at the point of a gun and NOT based on its superiority. There is just as much chance of this having a detrimental effect on open source as it does having a positive effect. When you throw money at things that don’t deserve, you don’t often get a superior product.
I use quite a few open source tools in my day to day development but I do that because they are better than the proprietary alternatives. I donate to these projects because they make my job or life easier. There are lots of open source tools I’ve tried that aren’t too great and I can’t imagine being forced to spend money on them just to supposedly level the playing field.
Open source succeeds because of the dedication and talent of a very diverse community. Forcing people to use it doesn’t further that cause. If anything, it may end up attracting people with less talent but more greed as they eye 40 million euros in government largesse. Forcing taxpayers to fund projects that may or may not be better than their proprietary counterparts will likely be largely counterproductive and lead the open source community, at least as it relates to what Hungary spends its dollars on, away from innovation and towards a chase for cash.
Further and deeper thoughts on what the cause and effect of this will be can be found here.