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Our commitment to better Open Source practices

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At the Open Government Partnership (OGP) summit last week in Paris, the UK government joined a new international collective action that recognises the role that Open Source Software has to play in increasing transparency and harnessing new technologies to improve governance.

Our commitment

We committed to sharing what we’ve learnt over the past few years about bringing open source and related working practices into government, to working collaboratively with other governments to develop common practices and policies, and particularly to making sure that open source plays a big role in our growing international collaboration around Digital Marketplace and procurement reform.

This fits with commitments we’ve already made through our Digital Service Standard and the Technology Code of Practice, and commitments we’ve made through international bodies like the Digital 5 (D5).

The OGP roundtable session discussing the commitment and the draft policy were a good start to involving a lot more governments in that work, and to see the support we have from a number of influential open source foundations and companies.

The summit

I attended the summit alongside Paul Maltby, and Sir Eric Pickles in his position as the Prime Minister’s Anti-Corruption Champion. It was great to experience the many themes around openness and transparency coming together with an impressively diverse agenda and group of attendees. With so many significant global political moments having occurred over the past year the mood was naturally very reflective.

At GDS, our day-to-day focus on open source and open standards in government ensures that the UK government can control its own technology and provide efficient foundations for great services. The summit was a helpful reminder that it’s also important that we keep thinking about the ways that open source culture and code work to make sure that the systems and algorithms we develop are as transparent as possible and enable new forms of accountability, participation and collaboration.

On a more immediate level it was good to learn a bit more about what other countries are doing, such as our French hosts’ OpenFisca which is a set of open source tools to simulate tax and benefits systems and a big step toward a significantly more transparent social security system.

What we’re going to do

The first deliverable of the group is an open source contribution policy template which will continue to be developed over the coming months. We’ll be helping to refine the template so we can all contribute to other work in a similar way.

We’re aiming to model open source collaboration across governments in a new phase of work on Digital Marketplace that will build on our work with Australia earlier in the year. The Digital Marketplace team will share more about those plans soon and we committed to sharing what we learn with the OGP community.

There are many other ways in which we can collaborate with other governments and with the wider open source community. We’re looking forward to continued conversations with the other governments, foundations, companies and NGOs that took part in the sessions.

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