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Many organizations adopt Open Source for reasons like flexibility and agility. Everyone needs to do more with less. But in government, Open Source drives both civic engagement and government participation like never before. Because of digital, the world feels much smaller and more connected. And Open Source gives people the opportunity to rally around a cause, no matter where they live.
Think about how we petitioned our government before we had the We The People website. I bet you have to think pretty hard about how it was done (I do!). Now, a website has brought to life the First Amendment rights of U.S. citizens. Millions of people's voices are heard. People pull together based on common concerns. The White House built We The People using Drupal and shared the code on GitHub, opening up the opportunity for other governments to easily create their own online petitioning systems.
Now, all kinds of open government data made available through the Data.gov project makes it possible for any developer, anywhere, to create a civic app. These apps have made us see our cities and towns in a different light.
Open City is one example of a group of local volunteers who create Open Source apps using government data. While the group is based in Chicago, the idea is that any city can grab code from an Open City app and make it their own.
Here are a few interesting examples: Clear Streets tracks a city's plows in real time. Living outside of Boston, I know we could use an app like that! Crime in Chicago lets citizens compare crime statistics in certain areas of town, which could be useful for people making decisions about where to move their families.
What is perhaps the most gratifying is that as open-source developers, we can collaborate on projects and help people around the world. It's part of what gets us out of bed in the morning. Earlier this year, participants in DrupalCon Portland launched a website in 24 hours to help people in Moore, Oklahoma, find transportation and housing after the tornado. Two weeks later, the site was discovered on Twitter in Germany and was repurposed to help people affected by the flooding in northern Europe. This type of project inspires us all to see how technology can make an immediate difference.
Other events, such as the National Day for Civic Hacking, encourage developers to use open government data to "collaboratively create, build, and invent". The idea that hackathons can help build and create a healthy, citizen-powered technology ecosystem within government is relatively new, and full of promise. Tim O'Reilly believes that government can escape the "vending machine" mentality (citizens put in tax dollars and get out services) by thinking of "Government as a Platform" for participation. I couldn't agree more.
Open Source ideals are already spreading in governments throughout the world, with good reason. A global network of developers is motivated to help. It's one of the best examples of civic engagement. As digital citizens, we all now have the power to contribute. One person's time and talent can make a huge difference. That is a movement I'm proud to be a part of.
(I originally wrote this blog post as a guest article for VentureBeat. I'm cross-posting it to my blog.)
Very exciting news from the White House today.
Last night President Obama fulfilled his promise to release the code behind "We the People", a Drupal-based application that enables the American people to directly petition the President of the United States on issues they care most about. The release follows a commitment the President made to the United Nations to share the technology behind this platform “so any government in the world can enable its citizens to do the same".
In October of 2009, WhiteHouse.gov was relaunched on Drupal. Two years later, the White House launched We the People on Drupal, a big step forward for Open Government. While governments haven't traditionally recognized the importance of the grassroots, word of mouth organizing that thrives on the Internet, We the People encourages grassroots citizen engagement.
Even more exciting is that if you are an Open Source developer, you can get involved with improving how your government actually works. Needless to say, I'm thrilled to see Open Source and Drupal changing the world in a positive, powerful way.
The newly released code is packaged as a Drupal install profile. The profile is currently tailored to the White House's website but every Github member can issue pull requests to make it more generally useful. The Petition install profile can be cloned, forked or downloaded from the White House's Github repository.
Vivek Kundra just released the Drupal software code for the ITDashboard.gov tool, which is built on Drupal by REI Systems. You can find the source code at http://www.cio.gov/tools/. More information can be found in a blog post by Alex Howards from O'Reilly Radar: White House releases IT Dashboard as open source code.
This is important for Drupal and Open Source: the U.S. Government, one of the largest IT buyers and users in the world, has just taken another big step in embracing Open Source and becoming an active contributor. It also enables us, the Open Source community, to help the U.S. Government enhance ITDashboard.gov or to recommend it to our respective governments all around the world. Very cool!
The new investor.gov is a good looking site that also seems to be 508 compliant (for accessibility). The site is easy to use, making it easy for users to get the information they need without being overwhelmed.
All in all, the site is great example of how governments can leverage Drupal to create beautiful and accessible sites. Nice work SEC!
Another U.S. government agency switched to Drupal. This time, it is the U.S. Small Business Administration. As part of their mission to ensure that small business owners and entrepreneurs have access to accurate, timely and helpful information, the SBA relaunched their website in Drupal. Check it out at SBA.gov.
The site was built by Promet Source and DRT Strategies (DRT).
This continues the trend of various government bodies around the world using Open Source software -- and especially Drupal to power their official websites.