Open source processes may prove invaluable for government IT projects

In recent years, the United States federal government has increasingly begun to utilize open source software solutions. Industry expert David Wheeler told Opensource.com that this trend is one of the most noteworthy developments in the open source field. However, despite the growing acceptance of such solutions amount government IT leaders, many other executives within federal agencies remain skeptical of such solutions.

Yet even if agency leaders are reluctant to embrace open source software, they can still benefit significantly by learning from open source processes, as a number of industry experts asserted at the recent FOSE conference in Washington, D.C.

Open source efforts
InformationWeek reported that several federal IT leaders spoke at the FOSE conference, offering their thoughts on government use of open source processes. Matthew Burton, former acting CIO at the CFPB, emphasized that tactics that have proved invaluable for open source developers can also play a key role in federal IT projects and business process management.

"It's not about code, but the process of making a product," said Burton, the news source reported. "You can do open source practices without having to share code."

Another speaker, GitHub government evangelist Ben Balter, highlighted the way that open source encourages collaboration, which can provide significant advantages to IT projects in general.

"Traditional waterfall software development leads to low visibility and management by email," said Balter, according to InformationWeek. "The always-available, asynchronous and lock-free nature of open source projects offers a useful model for working in tight-budget environments."

By improving collaboration, these open source-based strategies can increase the efficiency, security and overall capabilities of a wide range of IT efforts throughout government agencies.

Attracting talent
These tactics will also prove invaluable for government leaders as they strive to attract young, talented up-and-coming IT professionals. These recent graduates are typically far more familiar with and inclined toward open source software projects than their older colleagues. Consequently, they are more likely to gravitate toward job openings that enable them to work with open source tools and strategies.

This is particularly important because the U.S. government is now experiencing significant difficulties attracting and retaining cybersecurity professionals and other IT experts. Embracing open source may be a key way to help make public sector IT positions more appealing to these critical professionals.

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