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3 Things Every Government Agency Should Know about Open Source Technology

Building and sustaining new technology has always been a collaborative process. From the people who develop it, to the people who explain what it can do, to people who use it in new ways, nearly everyone has taken part in creating, promoting, or transforming technology in some way during their lifetimes.

Open source takes this concept one step further. By moving from a private model for creating software to a public process where anyone can contribute, open source is now changing the way public and private agencies think about creating and sharing technology more freely. Open source software is a collaborative way to develop source code (the blueprint on which software is built) and make available to anyone to use or modify.

This is fundamentally changing the way government agencies are solving problems. After all, if some piece of technology is working well for one agency, should another agency really invest time and energy in creating the same tools over again? With more open source options now available to public sector agencies, the answer is increasingly “no”.

If you and your team are interested in exploring open source options for your next project, here are 3 things you should know when considering getting started with open source technology.

1) Open source can serve more citizens.

Public sector technologists and communication teams are all working toward a similar goal – making lives better for their citizens. Much in the same way agencies share best practices and policies that drive positive outcomes, technology can and should be available and shared where possible to benefit the greater good. Open source enables agencies to solve not only their problems, but share their solutions with public sector teams throughout the world.

2) You don’t have to go it alone.

There are thousands of active open source projects happening in the public sector around the world. Finding a project similar to yours and contributing to its success might be the key to finding a faster solution to a problem you’re trying to solve. Open source opens up new possibilities to collaborate and learn from other agencies in similar industries with similar challenges.

3) Open means flexible and customizable.

With open source software, not only are you able to take advantage of existing technology and an active developer community, but you are also able to have more flexibility in your options for improvement and enhancements based on your organization’s needs. When needs for features or functionality change, agencies do not have to start from scratch with a costly new implementation of new software, instead, there are more options to develop internally or partner with private agencies to adapt existing software as requirements for software change over time.

An example of open source technology that is changing the way government agencies think about the future of their data initiatives is DKAN, a tool that helps agencies publishing and visualize data to engage their communities. Organizations from the City of Oakland to the United Nations have taken advantage of DKAN to create interactive data experiences and share valuable information with their diverse audiences.

Open source is not a one-size-fits-all solution to all software development, but it can be a powerful tool in your efforts to continue to drive efficiency within your agency and benefit your stakeholders. If you’re looking for more resources to explore more open source options for your agency, check out  resources at Nucivic.com, Open Source for America, Govcode.org, or the US Digital Services Playbook .