Home Civic Commons Helps Municipalities Share Code

Civic Commons Helps Municipalities Share Code

At the Government 2.0 Summit today, Code for America, DC’s OCTO and OpenPlans introduced a new code-sharing project, Civic Commons.

Civic Commons will help 21,000 local jurisdictions share code and work out best practices for developing them, all on an open source basis.

In an era of extraordinary economic challenges, Civic Commons believes governmental software development is, among other things, a fertile area for saving money.

“For the most part, each city, county, state, agency and office builds or buys their technology solutions independently, creating huge redundancies in civic software and wasting millions of tax-payer dollars. They should be able to work together.”

Alex Howard of O’Reilly, the company that put on the summit, explained some of the problems cities had encountered that inspired the project.

“The inspiration is drawn from the issue of cities developing code for the same problems but not sharing it. Of getting proprietary solutions that weren’t transferable. Of open source projects that were redundant, unknown or left to lie fallow. Of having valuable open source code like the IT Dashboard but no place to store and share it.”

District of Columbia CTO Bryan Sivak told Howard the solutions his city alone had created, and not shared, were legion. They included a data warehouse application, a new agency performance management application and a host of GIS apps. The hope is by sharing each municipality’s code, the best will become standard and the wheel will not need to be so relentlessly re-invented.

The code will be shard on an open source basis, creating an app catalog that Civic Commons is calling an “Open Civic Stack.”

“Civic Commons’ role is to be an information exchange, to provide discoverability, and to provide advice where needed; not to set up barriers or process requirements.”

The latter is an issue in a world where bureaucracies expedite or block innovation and too often choose, or fall into, the latter.

Civic Commons’ first step is an attempt to survey all the software municipalities have already created, then “identifying their licensing, installation processes, and code repositories.”

Want to get involved? Civic Commons encourages you to join as “a partner organization or advisor; share your code” or just take part in the discussion.

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