Best practices for Open Sourcing Government Code

Presenters: marcjones

Session Recording:

Last year the U.S. Government's Office of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) adopted a Federal Source Code Policy.  The policy established a pilot program requiring all agencies to release 20% of the new custom developed code as open source software. This presentation looks at best practices that agencies and contractors can adopt to maximize the benefit of releasing code developed for Federal agencies as open source software.

Open source software has been in existence for over 30 years and is now widely used and developed by both commercial and nonprofit organizations. Many government agencies are using open source software but -- despite the decades of use -- many government entities and government contractors lack experience with producing and releasing custom software as open source software. The requirement that 20% of each federal agencies custom developed code be open sourced is starting to change that, but maximizing the value of open source means more than just writing a policy.

We will discuss widely used best practices that have made open source software an increasingly dominant model for software production,  presenting technology neutral practices with examples using Drupal as a development platform. We will discuss best practices around:

  1. choosing which open source licenses to use;
  2. how licenses relate to the strategic development of software;
  3. how to structure the development process to encourage a community of contributors to share the development costs across agencies;
  4. how to maintain or improve security by  accepting contributions from members of the public,
  5. how to evaluate the health of existing open source projects to build off of, and
  6. why contributing back to existing projects is cost effective.  

Many of the best practices required for developing open source software using agency staff also help to effectively managing external vendors. The unprecedented transparency associated with open-source development makes it easier to evaluate third party vendors to ensure that agency’s resources are being used effectively. We will talk about how requiring vendors to release custom software as open source empowers government entities by

  1. creating a more competitive bidding process,
  2. reducing vendor lock-in, and
  3. ultimately results in better return on investment by reducing waste.

We will also review best practices for managing external vendors developing open source code including the key deliverables vendors should be expected to deliver to help agencies evaluate their performance and maximize the benefits of using an open source strategy.

Experience Level
Schedule Info
Conference Year
Date / Time
Room E1
Session Track
Community and Being Human