Category Archives: News

ONC at OSCON

On the Health IT Buzz blog from HHS, Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT’s Special Assistant for Consumer e-Health, Damon Davis, visits OSCON:

…it seems that those involved in the development of open source software believe it has the potential to be a driving force in advances in personal health and wellness, the technological transformation of the health care system, and government innovations small and large.  It is incumbent on those of us in the federal government to continue to strive for greater openness, transparency, and collaboration.

Read more here.

Open Source for America asks Administration to “Free the Code”

Working group will develop best practices for taxpayer-funded software.

Portland, Ore. – OSCON – July 19, 2012 – Open Source for America (OSFA), an organization of technology industry leaders, non-government associations, and academic and research institutions promoting the use of open source technologies in the U.S. Federal Government, today launched a petition to “Free the Code,” in an effort to encourage the government to release custom-developed, taxpayer-funded software as open source by default.

Free the Code is an initiative to start a national conversation on taxpayer investments insoftware and information technology,” said John Scott, president of Selection Pressure, LLC and co-chair of Open Source for America’s steering committee. “Specifically, we’re interested in how publicly-funded software code developed by the government, which isn’t already covered by a proprietary license, should be made available to the wider public.”

Scott and Deb Bryant of the Open Source Initiative (OSI) co-chaired a “Free the Code” session at the Open Source Conference (OSCON) this week in Portland, Oregon to invite interested parties to join the debate. “Releasing code as open source would significantly increase reuse and collaborative development between federal agencies and the private sector,” said Bryant. “We hope that others agree and will sign our petition at We the People asking the Federal Government to share government-developed software under an open source license whenever possible.”

Free the Code is asking anyone with an interest in taxpayer-funded software to sign the petition at: http://goo.gl/K920J.The White House has pledged to respond to any petition on the We the People site that garners 25,000 signatures within 30 days.

Free the Code has launched a website to share and discuss government policies and best practices on open source software. Anyone who wishes to join the working group and develop model policies can sign up at https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/freethecode.

About Open Source for America

Open Source for America (OSFA) is an organization of technology industry leaders, non-government associations and academic and research institutions dedicated to advocating the use of open source software in the U.S. Federal government. Participation in Open Source for America is open to any individual or entity signing the campaign’s mission pledge at: www.opensourceforamerica.org.

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New source code policy: open and shared

For the first time a U.S. Federal Agency (The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) has come out with a policy that clearly delineates how taxpayer investments in technology should be handled. since they say it best:

“The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was fortunate to be born in the digital era. We’ve been able to rethink many of the practices that make financial products confusing to consumers and certain regulations burdensome for businesses. We’ve also been able to launch the CFPB with a state-of-the-art technical infrastructure that’s more stable and more cost-effective than an equivalent system was just ten years ago.

Good internal technology policies can help, especially the policy that governs our use of software source code.

Some software lets users modify its source code, so that they can tweak the code to achieve their own goals if the software doesn’t specifically do what users want. Source code that can be freely modified and redistributed is known as “open-source software,” and it has been instrumental to the CFPB’s innovation efforts for a few reasons:

• It is usually very easy to acquire, as there are no ongoing licensing fees. Just pay once, and the product is yours.

• It keeps our data open. If we decide one day to move our web site to another platform, we don’t have to worry about whether the current platform is going to keep us from exporting all of our data. (Only some proprietary software keeps its data open, but all open source software does so.)

• It lets us use tailor-made tools without having to build those tools from scratch. This lets us do things that nobody else has ever done, and do them quickly.

Until recently, the federal government was hesitant to adopt open-source software due to a perceived ambiguity around its legal status as a commercial good. In 2009, however, the Department of Defense made it clear that open-source software products are on equal footing with their proprietary counterparts.

We agree, and the first section of our source code policy is unequivocal:

We use open-source software, and we do so because it helps us fulfill our mission.

Open-source software works because it enables people from around the world to share their contributions with each other. The CFPB has benefited tremendously from other people’s efforts, so it’s only right that we give back to the community by sharing our work with others.

This brings us to the second part of our policy:

When we build our own software or contract with a third party to build it for us, we will share the code with the public at no charge. 

Exceptions will be made when source code exposes sensitive details that would put the Bureau at risk for security breaches; but we believe that, in general, hiding source code does not make the software safer.

2012 CFPB Source Code Policy