Investigating Open Source Software Adoption in Governmental Contexts



Many value-creating strategies, products, and processes rely on information systems. Yet enabling access to these vital information resources through the procurement, implementation, and use of proprietary software is often complicated and costly. Proponents of open source software (OSS) claim that robust and yet affordable solutions are available because software engineers and programs around the world are able to contribute to source code that is open for anyone to modify and maintain overtime. This production model has shifted the notion of software as the intellectual property of a vendor, to a resource for all. However, questions remain about the viability of OSS for businesses and non-profits. For example, organizations seeking software-based solutions require the security of knowing that the software will not compromise their larger information infrastructure and hurt their business. Some software vendors now provide stable versions of open source software, which they call “vendor driven open source” that combine the strengths of open source with the security of having a direct contract with a company to provide technical/user support and software documentation. Through an exploratory field study of OSS use within city and state government, the researcher seeks insight into its viability for work operations.


Together with colleagues from Oregon State and The London School of Economics, I am beginning a large scale study of governmental agencies choosing open source software for their business operations. We would like to present in the short-format, the first phase of our study and solicit feedback and ideas from the conference attendees in order to shape a relevant study.

As such, I propose a presentation that includes question and answers built into the format. Alternatively, a panel presentation including our research team and folks from government agencies alongside developers would be quite interesting.

Speaking experience


  • Erica Wagner

    Portland State University


    Erica Wagner is an associate professor of information systems. She earned her Ph.D. from the London School of Economics and has an undergraduate degree in accounting. She has previously taught at Cornell University and The London School of Economics. Her research interests focus on the ways software is ‘made to work’ within different organizational contexts, with particular emphasis on how work practices are designed into artifacts, standard processes, and methods of accounting. Her research has been published in a variety of outlets including The Journal of the Association for Information Systems, Information and Organization, Communications of the ACM, and the Journal of Strategic Information Systems. Dr. Wagner’s paper entitled “The creation of ‘best practice’ software: Myth, reality and ethics”, was awarded “Best Research Paper 2006” by leading scholars in her field. In addition, she was one of four faculty members across Cornell University to receive a 3-year grant from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Digital Government project (2005) to support Natural Language Processing Support for eRulemaking.