Government’s role in fostering sustainable civic technology

In a new blog post, Philadelphia Chief Data Officer Mark Headd shares his thoughts on what it will take to make civic technology sustainable, including government insisting on open source software solutions.

From Mark:

When it comes to helping ensure that civic technology solutions continue to thrive after launch, there is almost nothing better than leveraging the power of open source. There’s nothing wrong with closed source solutions built on top of open data, but if governments are paying for custom solutions from vendors to display open data we should insist that the underlying code be open sourced. This can go a long way toward helping ensure that it continues to evolve over time, as civic technologists contribute fixes and enhances and (potentially) as other governments fork these solutions for their own use.

While OSS seems to have taken a back seat to open data in the open government movement, I’d like to commend Mark for being an open advocate for open source in the public sector. I’d love to see more public servants discuss its importance, especially senior-level officials who tend to be drawn into the short-term political safety net of proprietary offerings, as opposed to how their decisions impact sustainable government IT operations (and public budgets).

I’d also like to add that I strongly believe another critical aspect of sustainable civic technology will be entrepreneurial efforts that support and maintain these efforts, investing in what Andrew Hoppin calls an OpenSaaS approach to IT offerings.

(Full disclosure: I work with Andrew on NuCivic, including the open source open data platform DKAN.)

About Luke Fretwell

Luke Fretwell is the founder of GovFresh, co-founder/CEO of ProudCity and co-host of the podcast, The Government We Need. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn or email at


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