09 September 2010

Welcome to the Civic Commons

One of the core reasons why sharing works is that it spreads the effort, and avoids the constant re-invention of the wheel. One area that seems made for this kind of sharing is government IT: after all, the problems faced are essentially the same, so a piece of software built for one entity might well be usable - or adaptable - for another.

That's the key idea behind the new Civic Commons:

Government entities at all levels face substantial and similiar IT challenges, but today, each must take them on independently. Why can’t they share their technology, eliminating redundancy, fostering innovation, and cutting costs? We think they can. Civic Commons helps government agencies work together.

Why not indeed?

Moreover, by bringing together all the pieces, it may be possible to create something approaching a "complete" solution for government bodies - a "civic stack":

The "civic stack" is a shared body of software and protocols for civic entities, built on open standards. A primary goal of Civic Commons is to make it easy for jurisdictions at all levels to deploy compatible software. Pooling resources into a shared civic stack reduces costs and avoids duplicated effort; equally importantly, it helps make civic IT expertise more cumulative and portable across jurisdictions, for civil servants, for citizens, and for vendors.

Civic Commons is currently identifying and pulling together key elements of the civic stack. If you work in civic IT and would like to suggest a technology or category for the civic stack, please let us know. As we survey what's being used in production, we will adjust this list to emphasize proven technologies that have been deployed in multiple jurisdictions.

It's still early days for all this stuff, but the idea seems so right it must succeed...surely?

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Matija "hook" Šukljw said...

Is this the US answer to EU's OSOR?

Glyn Moody said...

@Matija: very similar, yes. I get the impression OSOR is slightly broader - that is, anything to do with open source and goverment - whereas Civic Commons looks slightly more structured to me (maybe wrong....)

Unknown said...

It reminds me of Brazil "Public Software Portal and Initiative", but Brazil opted for only admitting Free Software in the stack, and also publishes non-"Civic IT" things like the "Digital TV Middleware (Ginga)" as long as it was funded by the government.

Yfrwlf said...

Corporations want and pay for the fragmentation of efforts so that things like this do not succeed. If even the tiniest fraction of, for example, U.S. government bodies, say a few cities in a state, got together and pooled the resources they normally exhaust on closed proprietary solutions, and instead all contribute to the development of open source programs for all their needs, they could EASILY quench those needs. Now imagine if an entire country, or several countries, got together and put their IT money towards such projects. You could develop the greatest software for all those needs for the government in medicine, education, police protection, and more, a billion times over, if the world just cooperated.

Software's specialty is it is mere information, and can be duplicated infinite times. The world needs to work WITH that fact in mind, not against it. Governments may be limited with providing physical aid to other countries, but NOT when it comes to information aid.

Glyn Moody said...

@Yfrwlf: I think it is beginning to happen, albeit slowly.