Share your software

An agency’s software is likely to be useful, in whole or in part, to other agencies within the state, to local and regional governments within the state, or to similar agencies in other states. Additionally, in many states software created as a work of government is inherently in the public domain, which means an open-records request is all that’s necessary for software to become public.

If the software is published openly, vendors’ employees will be eager to work on it — it becomes a rare case of work that they can add to their portfolio for future jobs or share with friends, which helps to ensure that you’re getting their best work. Also, additional RFPs issued for the project can direct vendors to the code that’s already been written, allowing them to see exactly what they’ll be working on or interfacing with. A federal agency funding the work may be eager to find ways to share your software with other states that they’re also funding.

Checklist

  • [ ] The RFP will require that software source code be written and maintained in public on a social-coding platform (e.g., GitHub or GitLab), from day one
  • [ ] The RFP will require that software be explicitly dedicated to the public domain or published under an open source license
  • [ ] The RFP will use best security practices by requiring that software be strictly separated from data and secrets (e.g., passwords), with automated testing to make sure that separation is maintained
  • [ ] The RFP will require that software be documented sufficiently well that a developer with no connection to the project can use it to run their own copy of the software

Key questions

  • Will the state or agency security office bristle at the prospect of publishing open-source software and block deployment of the software?
  • Are there other agencies in the state or elsewhere around the country who are likely to benefit from this software? Can they be consulted prior to and during the development process?
  • Will the agency’s office of general counsel (or its equivalent) object to publishing software in the public domain or under an OSI-approved open source license?