Civic Commons to help local gov share software

According to announcement made at O’Reilly Media’s Gov2.0 Summit yesterday, a new, non-profit organization will help local governments share technology. By asking participating governments to help build a “civic stack,” Civic Commons will allow governments share resources and software that nearly all cities use.

Civic Commons will identify, document and relicense technology currently used by the public sector, while curating new technologies as they are developed. Over a dozen governmental agencies, spanning city, state and federal levels, have pledged to share their open source applications.

One of the organization’s founding sponsors is the District of Columbia’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) will be sharing multiple applications to seed the “commons” with a core set of technologies that many other cities can use.

“Not only will other jurisdictions benefit from the public release of these applications,” District CTO Bryan Sivak said in a statement, “we will benefit from external individuals and organizations contributing to the codebase and sharing exciting and innovative applications they have created.”

Dubbed as the civic stack, applications currently available through the Civic Commons range from public notices, legislation, and transit schedules to GIS and IT infrastructure solutions. DC will donate the code behind its performance management platform, TrackDC; New York State Senate will contribute their Open Legislation API; and the US CIO has pledged to provide code for the Federal IT Dashboard. Other categories in the civic stack include education, crime, land use, health, and finance.

Code for America executive director Jennifer Pahlka said Civic Commons will also breakdown the organizational and legal barriers to better technology deployments in government – not just provide a code warehouse. “[O]ur efforts are focused on providing resources, fostering community, and building a sustainable organization,” she said.

Code for America is a non-profit that will embed a team of technologists into the operations of everyday city government to leverage the use of Web 2.0 technologies and strategies in government. In an interview with CivSource last November, Ms. Pahlka said, “[Code for America] will help cities understand they’re all facing the same challenges and they can face them together.” Civic Commons is an extension of this vision.

These and other information resources will be available through an open technology wiki, including an open data and open government guidebook, case studies and standards.

OpenPlans is the third founding sponsor of Civic Commons. OpenPlans is a non-profit technology organization focused on civic engagement and open government, using journalism and open source software to turn data into accessible, useful information.

Civic Commons is expected to be developed into an independent non-profit in September or October of 2011.

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