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The case for open source in government: A democratic approach

Open government or open source governance is a philosophy that supports the open source and open content movements in relation to democratic principles. This political philosophy movement enables a more democratic approach to the government’s creation of policies and uses of technology.

Open governance philosophy

The nature of open source, and in particular Drupal, are inherently democratic. Drupal is one of the largest, most secure and scalable open source platforms on the market, favoured by both the private and public sectors worldwide. The community creates and manages Drupal, and government bodies leverage it to deliver value to its citizens. 

This is in parallel with how a government operates – people democratically choose leadership, and leadership delivers value back to the public.

The internal benefits of implementing more collaborative technology processes are:

  • Continuous integration environment across development, testing and deployment
  • Adherence to governance best practices are the norm and becomes business as usual
  • Security and compliance are implemented project by project rather than once and then reused

The Canadian government has been advocating this collaborative open source project, leading the way in changing the way that citizens as well as internal staff access, maintain and utilize public-facing digital spaces. 

As stated by the government of Canada, open-source software promotes openness and accountability while providing Canadians with more opportunities to participate in government. 

The government of Ontario, in particular, was noted in saying that they are creating a more open and transparent government by sharing their data and information and consulting directly with the people in Ontario. 

The Ontario flag on a windy day.

This statement confirms a publication on proceedings of the 12th Annual International Conference on Digital Government Research in 2011 which alluded to the shift of how technology should be administered and delivered by the public sector going forward.

“The idea of “open government” is animated by optimism over what can be accomplished politically through the use of new technology; the term draws in part on the philosophy and methods of the “open source” programming movement.”

In recent years, the movement towards open source and open governance is happening on a global scale towards a more transparent, participative and collaborative use and distribution of technology within the public sector. 

According to Drupal, government and intergovernmental agencies in more than 150 countries use its platform. 

Utilizing open-source software for the improvement of e-government services has gained a great deal of traction in Australia as well, creating an open government movement.

Facade of the new Australian parliament building.Facade of the new Australian parliament building.

Cited in a collaborative whitepaper, an Australian Government policy requiring agencies to consider open-source software inherently addresses many of the key principles of an open government:

“It is capable of providing broad access, is vendor-independent and is also able to meet specialist government and security requirements. 

In developing government models for policy analysis per the Australian Government’s open-source software policy, it is important to consider issues around public accessibility and interoperability for optimal citizen collaboration.”

Ideally, government models released to the public should be developed using open source for optimal availability, freedom and transparency.

As stated in a report conducted by Pheonsight, an organization dedicated to creating value through innovative insights and emerging technologies in government, widely adopting open source in the public sector can generate greater citizen participation and collaboration in our democracy, which would enhance the processes of government and improve policy outcomes.

The government of Newfoundland and Labrador sums up the open-government movement in stating:

“Open governments acknowledge and benefit from the input, knowledge and expertise that citizens can contribute to the operations and decision-making of government. It is about using innovative activities, approaches and strategies to better connect citizens and stakeholders to their governments.”

The technological and innovative benefits of widely implementing open source in government, empowers citizens by promoting a greater understanding and participation, ultimately leading to improving outcomes in policy creation, development, public satisfaction and improvements in equity considerations.

Open source in Canada: How Drupal empowers government innovation and communication

For more information about the power of Drupal and how it is shaping the future of how governments operate in a digital space, download a copy of our most recent webinar.