GitHub Goes Government, Aims To Open Source Civics

Coding collaboration tool GitHub wants to make government more of a collaboration and less of a one-way street. So it's launched a portal dubbed Github and Government aimed specifically at helping governments all over the world to open source datasets, legislation and information so that citizen programmers can help solve local problems.

Government budgets are always under pressure, and that's motivating more government executives to consider the power of open source. 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. 

There are at least two big benefits when citizens and city employees collaborate on GitHub. First, it makes government more transparent and approachable for citizens. And second, it lets elected officials faced with stretched budgets do more work with fewer resources. 

The U.S. government is beginning to recognize the value of open source on a national level. The White House has been a member of GitHub for over a year; the Defense Department has also long been a supporter, even sponsoring its own open-source conference.

Unfortunately, the new portal won’t help the U.S. government fix its most pressing GitHub bug report: Government occasionally shuts down. However, it will give citizen coders the ability to help fix other bugs once it’s back.