Exploring the value of open-source practices and communities so that local authorities may benefit from shared, reusable technical capabilities CONCEPT

Project details:

Organisation Northamptonshire County Council
Department Digital Services
Collaboration Level Share Funding
Budget Unknown
Key Contact Dan Blundell
Phase start 22 August 2019
Phase Estimated end 22 August 2019



Open-source software has long been an opportunity for problem-solving software to be created once and distributed everywhere, creating value for those that consume and reuse it.

It should go without saying that the main advantage of software distribution and reuse in the internet-age is distribution. Software is no longer constrained by geographical boundaries, CD-ROMS aren't posted and floppy disks couriered to where they need to be. Thanks to the internet, software can be distributed and scaled, reaching an almost infinite amount of users in hours and minutes rather than months and weeks.

It's also widely written that many government services have similar attributes, capabilities and opportunities to benefit from their shared commonality. (See Tim O'Reilly, Mike Bracken, Tom Loosemore, Mark Thompson, Simon Wardley et others writing on Government as a Platform)

On a similar note, there is an awful lot of much-needed effort going in to supporting local authorities in designing better services, however, technology is still predominantly driven by vendor solutions which still require in-house technical skills within LAs to help make software meet user needs. To make this simpler and more scalable, we're going to explore how open-source technology and community might help alleviate the strain on digital service design across the UK.

## Our proposal

To research and understand the opportunities and barriers to creating open-source, geographically agnostic reusable software tools and capabilities for re-use across local government authorities and what kind of mechanisms need to be in place to create sustainable change.

Our theory is, although many open source tools have been made available and published in the past, much of the value in these solutions is that they're; not designed with re-use in mind, rarely adhere to data standards, have little community for sustainable development and often published with no clear method for simple redeployment or reuse by other users.

With modern technology practices, it could be possible to create a sustainable open source tools and any relevant communities or foundation; similar to the Mozilla, Linux and Open source foundations (https://opensource.com/resources/organizations) that enable the transformation of local government technology to support service redesigns in a more cost-effective way than being predominantly vendor driven.

One of the considerable differences we're looking to explore and understand is whether the open-source software could be used more effectively by local government if it included enough support mechanisms to get value from the reuse as easily as possible. For example; a way to automatically deploy or provision the software, reducing the barrier to entry and overhead required to demonstrate value to government service leads and end-users.

This is currently an idea in progress, if you're interested in discussing more or would like to be involved in the work, please get in touch via LGD slack, or directly on email!

Thanks! Dan Blundell (Tech Lead)




Status Updates

13 September 2019

  • Dan Blundell

    27th August 2019 - had a really insightful call with Neil Lawrence at Oxford City Council, we discussed the existing approaches that are already in place at Stockport, Essex and data standards projects potentially suffering from the similar causes of inertia. The importance of creating a community and the assumptions that come along with simply 'publishing' tools, designs and outputs in general without the support in place to help them to deliver value repeatedly. Really great to have Neil's support.