[PublicPolicy] Open Sourcing Government Code

sean roberts seanroberts66 at gmail.com
Tue Jun 2 15:56:19 UTC 2020

The reality is that operating open source requires special devops skills that need to be hired for and then managed over time. That is why I recommend a close analysis of projects like the Open Mobility Foundation as it is a multiyear effort that has cities policy managers, commercial companies, and operators working together. It is international as well.

Managing day to day operations and upgrades needs to be first and foremost part of any open source plans. The TODO group has some great examples of good planning and organization. Maybe we can band together here on this mailing list to include government needs.

Sean Roberts, Chief Technologist
925.980.4729 Lincoln Network, LincolnPolicy.org
schedule through https://calendly.com/sarob/
On Jun 1, 2020, 11:20 PM -0700, Matthias Kirschner <mk at fsfe.org>, wrote:
> Hellio Shimon,
> * Shimon Shore [2020-05-31 20:11 +0200]:
> > I appreciate all the well done materials. They are presented very
> > well.
> >
> > From what I have seen most of the material is about using Open Source
> > and much less about donating.
> To make sure I understand you correct: By donating you don't mean
> donating money to Free Software organisations (like OSI or FSFE) or
> projects, but publishing source code by the government?
> > I am specifically looking for arguments for governments to open source
> > their code beyond the moral argument (ex. Public Money, Public Code).
> Can you clarify with of the arguments you consider moral? E.g. the short
> four ones from publiccode.eu:
> * Tax savings - Similar applications don't have to be programmed from scratch every time.
> * Collaboration - Major projects can share expertise and costs.
> * Serving the public - Applications paid by the public should be available for everyone.
> * Fostering innovation - With transparent processes, others don't have to reinvent the wheel.
> > To play devil's advocate, the counter argument here is that since it
> > is Public Money it must be used in ways that benefit the public.
> > Creating repositories that no one looks at have no real value and is a
> > waste of taxpayer money.
> We heard that argument for many years and I agree that it is sad if code
> is just dumped somewhere. But my question meanwhile always is: what is
> the negative outcome of a simple code dump? How much does that cost?
> Now if only 1 out of 100 times another public administration can make
> use of (parts of) software from such a code dump, isn't that already a
> positive outcome?
> There is a huge disadvantage if people in public administrations have to
> evaluate the usefulness of code before publishing it, or that they would
> have to create a contributors community before they can do so. This adds
> too many additional steps which are nice to have but if not done might
> also prevent the publication of useful modules for others, decreases
> transparency towards citizen, and decreases information to be able to
> compete with existing implementations.
> So my recommendation would be to publish by default and if you have
> budget, motivation, skills, etc. take the other steps like making it
> easy to reuse and contribute to code (e.g. by providing good readable
> license information https://reuse.software/), documenting it, answering
> questions, including other contributors, etc.
> Best regards,
> Matthias
> --
> Matthias Kirschner - President - Free Software Foundation Europe
> Schönhauser Allee 6/7, 10119 Berlin, Germany | t +49-30-27595290
> Registered at Amtsgericht Hamburg, VR 17030 |(fsfe.org/support)
> Contact (fsfe.org/about/kirschner) Weblog k7r.eu/blog.html
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