The federal government of the United States has announced the launch of Code.Gov, an open source repository of original code developed for government projects.
U.S. CIO Tony Scott demonstrated Code.gov at this week’s Code for America Summit, an annual civic technology meeting held in Oakland, CA.
Code.gov is starting with the code resources from 50 different governmental projects across 10 different agencies. However, that number is expected to grow as departments begin to implement the Federal Source Code Policy, which led to the creation of Code.gov.
The Federal Source Code Policy, set by the Obama Administration in August, states that all custom-developed source code created for (or by) the Federal Government must be released to all government agencies for sharing and re-use. This was intended to help agencies avoid duplication of effort and to help to spur innovation and interdepartmental cooperation.
It was also intended to help the government curb spending on specialized code. As Scott noted in his official memo announcing the Source Code Policy, the federal government spends over $6 billion USD per year, on over 42,000 transactions. Sharing code between departments in an open source environment seemed a logical step in helping separate agencies avoid paying for original code, when a modification of existing code could be done in-house:
“This is consistent with the Digital Government Strategy’s “Shared Platform” approach, which enables Federal employees to work together—both within and across agencies—to reduce costs, streamline development, apply uniform standards, and ensure consistency in creating and delivering information.“
The Federal Source Code Policy also delineated a pilot program, whereby certain projects would share their source code with support agencies and the public, not just other governmental departments. The pilot program requires agencies that purchase new, custom software to release at least 20 percent of the code as open source software on Code.gov.
This is not the first instance of the government’s custom-developed software being made available to the public as open source software. Currently developers can access the code that powers the White House’s ‘We the People’, an online petition service. The Department of Education also released code for the ‘College Scorecard’ website and API.
Code currently available includes projects from sources as varied as the Department of Energy, the EPA, and NASA. The site also includes a section with tools and resources designed to assist federal departments in implementing the Federal Source Code Policy.