(Photo by Flickr user United Nations Photo, used under a Creative Commons license)
After delivering his address at the annual United Nations General Assembly meeting last week, President Obama dropped a tidbit of interest for open data advocates: he promised to produce an open source policy by the end of 2015.
New measures will promote open education, expand the government’s digital services, improve fiscal transparency and protect privacy in response to the growth of big data technologies.
The plan has potential, said Alexander Howard, a columnist at TechRepublic who runs open government blog E Pluribus Unum. “Software that is developed on behalf of the American people should be accessible and free to the American people,” he said.
Several government agencies have already developed their own open source policies, including the Department of Defense and NASA. Some government software has even made waves in the coding world: OpenStack, which was created by NASA, has “become one of the fastest growing open source softwares … in history,” said Howard. “The White House earns a justified kudos,” he added, for releasing its Drupal module back in 2012.
There has also been recent progress: 18F, the General Services Administration’s newly-minted effort to expand the digital tools available to government agencies, is open source by default.
“We say that the White House should be open to the people … it shouldn’t be a mansion,” said Howard. “You extend that principle to software.”