Government IT shops get a store for open-source apps

Civic Commons creates a place for agencies to share software

Government IT shops looking to save money — and it’s hard to imagine one that isn’t — now have a common well they can draw on for software development and innovative ideas.

A public/private partnership launched Civic Commons this month, a website designed to let state, local and federal agencies share software they have developed. Created by the Washington, D.C., Office of the Chief Technology Officer and the nonprofit organizations Code for America and OpenPlans, the partnership will work with agencies “to identify, document and relicense technology now in use to make it available for sharing,” according to a Civic Commons announcement.

Civic Commons plans to create a directory of applications available to government IT shops and allow agencies to contribute applications as they develop them. The goal is to allow agencies to share innovative ideas and cut costs.

“In the District of Columbia alone, we have a large set of applications that other governments may find very useful,” said Bryan Sivak, Washington’s CTO.

Washington attracted applications through its Apps for Democracy competition, in which the city invited developers to submit applications that make use of government data. Sharing open-source applications as a way of improving efficiency is an idea that’s catching on in government. Sunlight Labs’ Apps for America and the Army’s Apps for the Army are two other examples.

More than a dozen entities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, have already agreed to share their open technology, the release states. Among the applications that will be available are the New York State Senate’s Open Legislation application and the Federal IT Dashboard.

Civic Commons will plans to act as an information resource in support of using open technologies, standards and data. Open government is a focus of both Code for America and OpenPlans.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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