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Collaborative code is the future of governance

By Jan Ainali on Feb 26, 2020


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In the last century, use of software by government was new and somewhat experimental. Now software can be considered vital public infrastructure. From public school administration to municipal parking services, from smartphone apps for citizens to databases in the cloud, software has become fundamental to how public organizations function.

Public service delivery and governance already depend on software. In the future, even more aspects of public administration will be enabled by it.

When digital services throughout public administrations now execute and modify policies that became legal code through democratic procedures, the software code has, de facto, started to equal legal code. But without the corresponding democratic accountability!

Open Belgium participants will know that the software that runs our society today is often hidden in proprietary code bases, and produces data not owned by the public. We wouldn’t need this conference if this weren’t the case. Often, the data is even licensed at ever-increasing cost from outside companies to the public administrations using the software.

This is not optimized for public good. By contrast to the growing proliferation of unaccountable ‘black box’ software services, the Foundation for Public Code defines public code as both civic code (like policy or regulation) and computer source code (like software and algorithms) executed in a public context, by humans or machines. Because public code serves the public interest, we believe it should be open, legible, accessible and sustainable.

"Because public code serves the public interest,
we believe it should be open, legible, accessible and sustainable."

We also believe public policy and open source have a natural affinity. At this very conference we’ll hear from the European Commission’s open source JoinUp discussion platform, sponsored by ISA² (the European Commission’s programme to encourage open source). You can also join a brainstorming session to improve Belgium’s open data maturity ranking with people from the open source Flemish Open Data Portal.

The Foundation for Public Code provides codebase stewardship to help public administrations that want collaborate on public code. Since our founding in July 2019, we’ve been honored by the number of organizations that have reached out to us because they want to work together, openly.

We exist to help public-purpose codebases succeed. Because we believe that collaborative code is the future of governance.

Jan will guide you through this journey to the future in breakout room 2, 11.30.

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written by Jan Ainali
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