In the wake of my last posting, I finally got hold of Colleen Thouez, chief of UNITAR, the United Nations Institute of Training and Research. She filled me in on the intent of UNITAR's three-day symposium on open source software, which her organization held this week. While the meetings help put open source on the UN agenda, nothing is going to directly come from them along the lines of a policy recommendation.
Thouez says IT is definitely on the minds of UN delegates, and they have asked her unit to gather info. This year, she has held a series of symposia. In addition to open source, she has addressed wireless, broadband, information security, and e-government. "We're a neutral platform. We don't make policy recommendations. We don't come down with an opinion on any of these," she says. Rather, her organization publishes transcripts of its symposia and makes them available to delegates.
Seems like this will be a disappointment to the open source crowd. Bob Sutor, the vice president of standards at IBM, and a symposium participant, was hoping for some top-down momentum from the UN. Not happening. For now, it looks like grassroots organizing will remain the force behind the global spread of open source.