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GDS pushes open source code to software stage

04/01/17

Programme will involve selecting code to develop to software in effort to promote reusability

The Government Digital Service (GDS) has begun to shift its work on open source towards producing more software rather than simply releasing code.

Anna ShipmanAnna Shipman (pictured), the lead official for the open source workstream in GDS, said it is a step towards improving the reusability of the open code and making government as a whole more active in the open source community.

Writing in a blogpost, Shipman says that while a large amount of government code has been released under open source licences over the past five years, there is no guarantee it will be maintained and much of it is not easy to reuse.

It also makes it less likely that other teams will use and test the code in different environments, which can help to identify problems and fixes.

User research

This has prompted the effort to develop some code into software, with GDS launching some user research to identify a few development projects.  Shipman says there will be scope for other teams to become involved in the research during the year.

She adds that, even for projects that are not right for reuse, there are advantages in documenting them and spreading what has been learned.

“There are many benefits to making your source code open even if not fully open sourced, including encouraging good practices and making it easy for teams to collaborate,” she says. “All new code written by government has to be open by default.”

GDS is running a series of cross-government open source meetings, the next of which it plans to co-host with the Ministry of Justice in February.

The Government recently stepped up its involvement in the international open source community in signing up to the Paris Declaration as part of the Open Government Partnership. This commits it to promoting the transparency and accountability of the relevant code and algorithms “wherever possible and appropriate”.

Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0

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