It’s interesting to reflect back on the not too distant past and think about how governments have used open source software.
For many state and local governments – as recently as a few years ago – the use of open source software was something of a foreign concept. Many a government IT worker made an impassioned and well reasoned plea to bosses and co-workers to consider using open source software to capitalize on a range of different benefits. (And yes, in case you’re wondering, when I was a state government IT worker I made many such pleas to bosses and co-workers.)
For a long time, those pleas usually went unheeded. How far we’ve now come.
Not only are more and more state and local governments starting to realize the benefits of using open source software, some of them are actually starting to become developers of open source solutions.
The notion of government-sponsored open source software development isn’t necessarily new – it’s how we got SE Linux for example. But it is still a relatively new concept for state and local governments. I can think of two government entities that are leading the charge.
First, the New York State Senate. Under CIO Andrew Hoppin, the New York legislature’s upper chamber has become a leader in the public sector for its use of open source software. Not only does the Senate use Drupal for its public website, they also contribute Drupal modules back to the community.
After becoming the first legislative body in the country to develop iPhone and iPad apps, they not only released the code for these apps on GitHub, they actually did a code walk through for developers at a recent event in Albany.
And now, the State of Washington has released the code for its own mobile apps on GitHub. They are actively encouraging people to submit ideas to help further develop the software and to identify bugs.
Both of these governments (and others who are out there doing the same thing) will realize more benefits by open sourcing the code for their apps than they would have had they kept the source code a secret. By making the code for their apps visible and reusable, they’ll attract more developer interest and help ensure that bugs or security issues get identified quickly.
Other governments will benefit as well – these two organizations are clearly ahead of the curve in developing mobile apps, and other governments will benefit from their experience and expertise. Since’s governments generally don’t compete directly with each other, this type of sharing makes perfect sense.
Improvements or enhancements to these open source applications will in turn provide benefits for the governments that created them – this is one of the driving dynamics of Gov 2.0.
I’m wondering if there are other state and local governments out there doing this same thing. Do you know of a government agency or entity with a GitHub repo or other open source code repository?
Leave a comment below with the details.