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Free and Open-Source Software: Opening and Democratising e-Government's Black Box

By David Berry and Giles Moss


This article considers the implications that the use of free and open-source software in government might have for democracy and public participation. From a constructionist perspective, the democratic 'effects' of non-proprietary software are contingent on how the practice of free and open-source software is discursively represented and constituted as it is translated into new e-government systems. On these premises, an analysis of official discourse and government policy for non-proprietary software suggests that its introduction into government will bring more 'politics as usual' rather than democratisation. Nevertheless, on the basis of an alternative discourse of ethics and freedom evident in the Free Software and Open Source communities, the authors of this paper envisage circumstances in which the discourse and practice of non-proprietary software contribute to opening-up and democratising e-government, by protecting and extending transparency and accountability in e-governments and by offering scope for technology to be shaped by citizens and associations as well as by administrators and private interests

Year: 2006
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