As Open Source Goes Mainstream, Institutions Collaborate Differently

Alex Howard | TechRepublic | November 14, 2014

18F has quietly become the bleeding edge of the US federal government's adoption of open source software. Read about the benefits and challenges of open source going mainstream.

Earlier this week, I saw what the future of building government services may look like when I stumbled upon a simple dashboard of projects-in-progress. The dashboard is hosted by 18F, the new development unit within the US General Services Administration.

18F, which explicitly seeks to tap into the success of the UK's Government Digital Services unit, is pursuing a similar strategy, trying to lure developers from Silicon Valley and the ranks of civic developers all over the country with a daunting mission: change how federal technology gets done, at a time when bad government websites now damage public faith in government. Behind the dashboard is 18F's GitHub account, which exemplifies a quietly revolutionary idea that the UK has been pursuing with great success: build beautiful digital services for the public, in public.

The use of GitHub by 18F and many other governments is why, incidentally, I thought the social coding startup was the most interesting company in government IT last year, with increasing activity week over week.  "Simply put, every metric we can possibly generate is a hockey stick going straight up at this point," said Ben Balter, government evangelist for GitHub, in an interview. Balter says that over 700 government organizations in 30 countries are now there, including 120 US federal agencies, 40 states, 30 cities, and 20 counties...