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UK’s GDS to renew focus on reusable software

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The UK’s Government Digital Service (GDS) will renew its focus on the creation of open source reusable software projects, says Anna Shipman, GDS’ Open Source Lead. It is a subtle shift from making source code publicly available – the default of the past five years, to creating real open source projects – getting a community involved and providing support for its reuse.

Writing on the Government Technology blog, in December, Shipman announced she would make an inventory of the code that is already available, to see which projects can be transformed into open source software.

From her blog:

“When code would be useful for other teams there are clear advantages to supporting reuse. For the other teams, and for government in general, the advantage is the chance to save time and money. In these cases, it might be worth taking the extra steps to make this code open source software.

There are advantages to the originating team as well. Your code will be used and tested in a variety of environments and there is a greater chance of people finding issues and in many cases helping you to fix them. People who use the code often contribute bug fixes back to the original and these may help set direction and contribute features as well.”
Open by default

Turning publicly available code into open source projects can be a lot of work, Shipman warns. “Making code reusable and maintaining it is an extra overhead.”

This year, Shipman aims to identify a few code bases to be turned into open source projects.

The GDS Open Source Lead will also renew the guidance to development teams working on government software projects. “All new code written in government has to be open by default”, she writes. However, “our guidance is not as joined up as it could be so I’m going to be working on clarifying that and filling any gaps, and then I’ll look at how to address any other barriers we find through user research.”