US government tells departments to share source code

By on 16/08/2016 | Updated on 24/09/2020

Federal civil servants in the US will have to share any new code developed for computer programmes in their department with their colleagues from across government and release part of it to the public, under a new policy announced by chief information officer Tony Scott.

The Federal Source Code policy, which was published last week, states that new custom-developed source code developed specifically by or for the federal government should be made available for sharing and re-use across all federal agencies.

It also includes a pilot programme that will require departments to “release at least 20% of new custom-developed code as open source software (OSS) for three years and collect additional data concerning new custom software to inform metrics to gauge the performance of the pilot.”

The proportion of agencies’ source code released to the public will be collated on a new website – – which will be launched “in the coming months,” according to Scott.

By encouraging greater cross-departmental collaboration and avoiding duplication, the policy seeks to “reduce costs, streamline development, apply uniform standards, and ensure consistency in creating and delivering information,” according to official government documents.

“By making source code available for sharing and re-use across federal agencies, we can avoid duplicative custom software purchases and promote innovation and collaboration,” Scott said in a blog post.

“By opening more of our code to the brightest minds inside and outside of government, we can enable them to work together to ensure that the code is reliable and effective in furthering our national objectives, and we can do all of this while remaining consistent with the Federal Government’s long-standing policy of technology neutrality,” he added.

Several government organisations have already started publishing custom-developed code as OSS or without any restriction on use including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Department of Education and the Department of Defense.

Click here to view the official policy document

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See also:

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Michelle Fitzgerald, chief digital officer, City of Melbourne: interview

Singapore launches single platform for government e-services

About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.

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