On August 8, 2016 the White House made it official: The U.S. government is going Open Source. In a government memo and a blog posted by the U.S. Chief Information Officer Tony Scott, the government announced the release of its Federal Source Code Policy.
In it, the United States details how it will achieve “efficiency, transparency, and innovation through reusable and Open Source software.” The policy “requires new custom-developed source code developed specifically by or for the Federal Government to be made available for sharing and re-use across all Federal agencies.”
With the release, the government acknowledges the changing software development environment and, indeed, the business landscape in general. Open Source software offers a number of significant advantages compared to proprietary technology – the most important ones being:
The policy reflects developments in the private sector, where Open Source software is often the standard. According to the policy, 20 percent of federally-funded code will also be released to the public, thus allowing businesses to benefit from software developed with taxpayer money and helping to accelerate innovation.
According to Scott, the federal government is already developing solutions for important projects using Open Source software – citing the U.S. Government’s platform for open data, data.gov, as an example.
By sharing custom-built software among federal agencies, the government expects to improve efficiency and save money by avoiding overlap in software development.