Why the government supports open source software

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© Marina Putilova

The use of open source software has exploded in recent years, with an estimated 1 billion euros invested in open source technology in Europe in 2018 alone

This trend is only getting stronger as organizations seek to access the benefits of agility and scalability that non-proprietary code can provide.

Given that open source software is now an important and indispensable aspect of digital infrastructure, it is no surprise to see the UK government taking advantage of open source technology. Aiven’s research found that 71% of UK government tech workers report that the government now uses more open source software compared to five years ago.

Multiple benefits arise from the use of open source software that governments are beginning to wake up to, such as talent recruitment, knowledge retention and sharing as well as enabling digital transformation strategies. And let’s not forget that open source software also saves the government expensive licensing fees.

Recruit talent

With an ongoing shortage of tech talent, giving developers access to open source software has tremendous benefits that governments can take advantage of, chief among them being their ability to recruit and retain top talent. In effect, three-quarters of tech workers said providing access to open source will help the UK government hire more software developers and engineers.

This is all the more imperative at a time when the public sector can’t match the salaries of their private sector counterparts for technology-related roles. The availability of open source software provides potential recruits with a transparent view of the work they will be undertaking. When a software engineer goes to a government department for an interview, they can see precisely the codebase they will be working on, allowing for a better understanding of the nature and scope of the work, which is much sought after. by the developers.

Store and share knowledge

Open source software also allows governments to retain skills and knowledge within departments. Because software development is highly specialized, there is a significant risk of loss of corporate knowledge with staff turnover. Knowledge is best shared and disseminated when working in the open using open source techniques. Additionally, troubleshooting existing issues is easier when using open source solutions, which reduces frustration for software engineers, which in turn leads to lower revenue.

This same accessibility encourages code sharing between different services, avoiding writing new solutions from scratch to solve similar problems. Different subdivisions can easily visualize the work of others, improving agility and efficiency when working towards common goals, such as new plan for digital health and social care.

Digital transformation

Governments around the world need to catch up with the pace of technological change and how it affects the delivery of their services. In the UK, Government Digital Services (GDS), is responsible for unifying and digitizing the online function of government and providing a perfect example of how effective open source can be integrated into government services. .

Governments around the world must catch up with the pace of technological change

GDS used open source technology to launch GOV.UK in 2012, which now hosts over 20,000 websites on a single platform. This realized a government vision for shared digital systems, in which easy-to-build, user-centric services are available.

The GDS needed a search service that could run multiple government websites and the GDS itself. He chose to use open source research tools like OpenSearch because much of his code was already open source, demonstrating the capability of open source in government. Many branches today, such as local councils and fire departments, use managed open source technology, accessing benefits without additional provisioning or information assurance due diligence.

I strongly believe that all software produced by government sources should be open source, so taxpayers can scrutinize and inspect how their tax dollars are spent, which is why I think we should applaud governments like the United Kingdom who are massively adopting open source software.

Open source has proven valuable in both the public and private sectors. The technology has the ability to increase visibility, meet developer demands, and provide a smoother platform for digital transformation, which is why it was so readily adopted by GDS. With government requirements for talent retention, departmental alignment and a focused digital strategy, it will come as no surprise to see open source continue to be embraced by the UK government and beyond.

This piece was provided by Jose PratOpen Source Engineer Manager Hail.

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