Building collaboration

Government Open Code Collaborative

An initiative that allows cash-strapped state and local agencies to share the source code needed to develop a variety of e-government applications is gaining momentum.

The Government Open Code Collaborative (GOCC) is first and foremost about sharing the code that other government officials have already paid for or developed. An agency official can upload code to the central repository, in which others can search for it, use it, improve it and eventually help develop complete applications from it that others can also use.

The idea spawned from the overlap of many state and local government functions. "So why is every one of us going out and spending hundreds of millions of dollars to build those systems?" asked Peter Quinn, chief information officer for Massachusetts and chairman of GOCC.

"Particularly at the state level, [collaboration] has been the movement over the last couple of years," said Thom Rubel, vice president of government strategies at Meta Group Inc. "They've been sharing and collaborating, particularly on architecture, so this seems like a natural extension. ... There's more data sharing, there's more best practices sharing, there's more sharing of applications and code to drive costs down."

Government officials at any level and officials at academic and nonprofit institutions must sign the GOCC Operating Agreement before contributing code to or accessing the repository, which the University of Rhode Island hosts. Other members in the all-volunteer initiative include state and local agencies from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Missouri, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia. Legal counsels from many of the entities worked on the agreement for several months, Quinn said.

The leading GOCC developers knew they had to start with that legal framework "so that we wouldn't have to rebid the legal agreement every time," said Claudia Boldman, director of policy and architecture for Massachusetts and leader of many of the collaborative's daily policy issues.

Getting that legal agreement is critical to the success of this initiative, Rubel said. "A lot of the time, you'll run into regulatory or legal barriers that can make a relatively simple thing very difficult, so the fact that they got legal [agreement] is a promising step," he said.

Open code includes open-source software such as the Linux operating system, but it also applies to other types of code that fall under free software licensing. Code for a wide range of applications is already included in the repository.

Praise for GOCC will be important to promoting the initiative. Since it was launched last month, GOCC's e-mail list has already grown to more than 70 subscribers, and leaders are getting requests to join the group from agencies nationwide, Quinn said.

"Our goal is to make this as grass-roots as possible and as simple as possible for people to participate," he said.

Once they are members, agencies have full access to the Web-based repository and the central e-mail list maintained by the New York State Attorney General's Office.

Rhode Island developers were already working on the repository before the initiative started. When the state's administration came into office, officials focused on the advantages of open source as an inexpensive solution and collaborative development process, said S. James Willis, chief information officer in the secretary of state's office. They approached officials at several federal agencies to measure government interest in sponsoring the initiative. When that didn't work out, GOCC was formed.

The repository is built on Zope Corp.'s content management system and Plone interface, both of which are open-source applications. A couple of commercial solutions would have met the system's basic needs, but Zope's solution, like many other major open-source applications, has full support and is free of charge, Willis said.

Although the GOCC repository didn't come in a box with slick packaging, full documentation for how to use it is available. And as a sign that sharing code and ideas will likely work, repository users provided the documentation.

"The day that I knew this was going to work...was the day that I saw somebody else I didn't know had written the documentation for something I wrote," Willis said.

***

BUILT HERE, USEFUL EVERYWHERE

The Government Open Code Collaborative serves as a repository for all code that falls under the open-source initiative's approved license. But open code extends past the strict open-source definition to include free software and other code approved under the group's operating rules, as determined by the founding members' legal counsels.

The code that is already available to members and the public in the repository encompasses a wide range of applications, including:

Election tally — A Web application that counts and reports municipal election results by voter districts. Developed by Newport News, Va., government officials and intended for other local governments.

Security alert system — An application for managing information security incident notifications. Developed by officials from the Massachusetts Information Technology Division and intended for state and municipal use.

Simple Webcam scripts — A series of scripts to publish images from Webcams placed throughout a city or town to that local government's Web site. Developed by Gloucester, Mass., government officials.

Source: Government Open Code Collaborative

NEXT STORY: Ore. group wins $1.6M TSA grant

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.