Developers Get a Civics Lesson with Open Source Government Projects
If you’re a civic-minded programmer who would like your government to be more open and more efficient, you now have the option to help make it happen.
GitHub, a web-based hosting service that supports code collaboration for development projects, recently launched a portal called GitHub and Government that promotes “open source, open data, and open government.” The site lets GitHub users connect and work together to solve problems and make information more available to the public.
Local agencies and governments of major cities have adopted GitHub to share best practices and collaborate on projects but so have states and even countries and dozens of locations around the world.
A number of the projects have real-world applications that noticeably improve government workflow and citizens’ lives, such as Adopt-a-Hydrant, an open source web app created for the City of Boston that asks residents to monitor hydrants and make sure they’re clear of snow in winter for emergency crews. This project has since been remodeled in Chicago for sidewalks, Seattle for storm drains, and Honolulu for tsunami sirens.
ReadWrite details more projects GitHub and Government has helped make happen:
Philadelphia city employees use GitHub to store their public-facing code and accept edits and tweaks from citizen developers. Chicago released bike routes on GitHub so local entrepreneurs can use them for apps that make it easier to get around the city. To promote transparency, San Francisco hosts its entire municipal codebase on GitHub.
Citizens aren’t the only ones who benefit from the increased transparency open data affords. Collaborations like this also help governments that are strapped for cash and resources improve their districts efficiently. The US government has embraced open source initiatives, with the White House drafting an official open data policy of the United States on GitHub earlier this year.
The willingness of governments at various levels to recognize the value of open source code was welcome news for software developers previously frustrated about glitches, sluggish response times, and inefficient bureaucratic websites that they would have been happy to help streamline and improve.
Of course, even with the contributions of all these enthusiastic programmers, not every bug reported in GitHub’s new portal will get fixed. There was this pesky one, but that seems to be patched for now.