18F:  Expand federal source code policy to state and local

18F: Expand Federal Source Code policy to state and local

The General Services Administration’s 18F digital services group is pushing to extend the proposed Federal Source Code policy to cover software projects and code developed with federal funding for or by state and local governments.

Released last month, the Office of Management and Budget’s draft policy would require all code and software developed at agencies or by contractors specifically for federal government use to be publically available for use across all agencies.

According to a comment submitted on the draft by 18F, this policy should also include federally funded code created for or by state and local government. Robin Carnahan, head of 18F’s State and Local Practice, said such a change would help improve digital services, save taxpayer money and reduce time, costs and risks for government at all levels.

If open source software were the default for federal grantees for Medicaid modernization projects, for example, the federal government wouldn’t have to pay for the same solution 50 or more times, she said.

Additionally, “[s]tate and local governments often face even greater capacity constraints and technology needs than the federal government,” Carnahan said.  

Extending the policy this way could help prevent each state and local government from “reinventing the wheel,” while making make room for more government collaboration. For example, Carnahan pointed to GSA’s open source code  for Analytics.usa.gov, which has been used, adopted and modified by a number of state and local governments, including New York, Philadelphia and Tennessee.

“By removing legal uncertainty and the need to ask for permission, full open source release empowers even small, resource-constrained state and local government agencies to move fast,” Carnahan said, which in turn allows for better and quicker digital services.

About the Author

Amanda Ziadeh is a former reporter/producer for GCN.


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