One of the most compelling recent success stories for open-source geospatial tools in the Federal Government has been the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) National Broadband Map initiative. It has been a very visible example of the stability, scalability, flexibility, and power of open-source geospatial tools.
The Woodrow Wilson Center will be hosting a case study of National Broadband Map on October 15th, 2012. The event’s page also includes a link to the full paper (PDF), authored by Zachary Bastian of the Wilson Center and Michael Byrne of the FCC.
The full paper, in my opinion, is recommended reading for anyone working with geospatial technologies in the government space. While the Broadband Map has rightfully garnered significant attention based upon its success, especially in terms of performance and scalability, the paper does a good job of reminding us that the map is not an end goal in itself, but a step toward the larger policy goal of expanding broadband access. The paper does an excellent job of illustrating how top-level policy goals were broken down into actionable parts that resulted in a concrete product such as the Broadband Map. In so doing, it walks us through the introduction and fostering of an open culture within the FCC that resulted not only in the Broadband Map but also in the development of open APIs and the availability of FCC tools as open-source projects themselves.
In its conclusions, the paper also makes compelling observations about the power of focused policy goals to drive the use of technology standing in stark contrast to generic overarching technical policies, such as the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) which are disconnected from specific policy goals and achieve little traction.
If you are interested not only in geospatial technologies, but also the link between policy and technology implementation, and the cultural change that can be brought about by open-source technologies, you should consider attending the event at the Wilson Center on the 15th. While not a universal blueprint, the National Broadband Map makes a compelling case study.