[Dette interview er på engelsk]
Last week OS2 had visitors from the Netherlands: Boris Van Hoytema and Claus Mullie from Foundation for Public Code. The organisation Foundation for Public Code is dedicated to helping open source projects for public organisations to become successful, building sustainable communities around them and creating a thriving public open source ecosystem.
Boris and Claus took time to sit down and answer some questions about public code, open source and the future.
What would you in Foundation for Public Code like to see changed in the world around you?
So much of the core task of modern public organisations is already or will soon be done by digital systems, and what we would like is that these digital systems are developed with the same integrity and intention as the rest of these organisations. Also, we don’t believe that there are enough technologists around to facilitate this transitioning of the digital becoming the core of a lot of public organisations, and therefore we need to collaborate.
What we are trying to achieve is for it to become normal that public organisations work together at a large scale with each other.
What we are trying to achieve is for it to become normal that public organisations work together at a large scale with each other. And that is incredibly hard because technology develops very quickly, and public organisations must be conservative since they carry society.
The only way of working together at that scale is through open source collaborations. We see that as a core instrument to achieve our mission.
What were your ideas behind your visit to the OS2 network?
This development of working together about digital public administration is happening all over the world. Whether it is organized by law such as in Italy or Bulgaria, or it is organized more bottom-up like in France or in Sweden. Or whether it comes more from directives of governments telling each other to do things like in the UK and the US. You see that this is a movement that is happening. And I think OS2 and what is happening here (in Denmark, red), is at the forefront of that movement when Danish municipalities are working together and building communities in order to solve their problems. Therefore, we are here to learn from what you are doing, see how we can connect with your work and collaborate.
How do you see the current international collaboration on open source?
One of the things we are seeing a lot in open source collaboration, is that it happens in countries and organisations with very similar make-up to each other. See in OS2 for example, one of the reasons it works quite well is that Danish municipalities have a quite similar structure and mandate and way of working together.
We are hoping that we will be able to create a sustainable common ground between different public entities internationally
But even though municipalities in other countries might be different, they might face similar issues, and they might be able to use a lot of similar solutions. We are hoping that we will be able to create a sustainable common ground between different public entities internationally because currently not much happens. Yet.
You have made the Standard for Public Code – what is that all about?
The Standard for Public Code is the statement that we have made, which describes if a code has these properties, it can be a project that scales. What we see is that a lot of organisations that we work with are set on creating open source codebases but in the process don’t manage to create codebases that are well-documented or well-tested enough or they don’t have right kind of marketing material. With the Standard for Public Code, we want to say that these are the things that we think a codebase needs to fulfill if they can scale internationally.
if a code has these properties, it can be a project that scales
How do people contribute to your work?
There is a whole lot of different ways to do contribute. Anyone who is interested in this field can meaningfully contribute to something. There is enough work to do and we need a diversity of different ways of looking at things to help us along our journey.
If you are more technical, you can find the contributing files on our GitHub repositories. If you are more into policy or if you are in business management, feel free to drop us a line or call us and then we can help you get started. We would love contributions from everyone. This is really something that we need to do together, we need to develop together and learn how to scale together.
Now you have made the Standard for Public Code publication, what is the next step?
I think in a lot of these projects, it is not just about the next step. This is a continuous process of development. We are growing a codebase stewardship team. And this team’s mandate is to take care of codebases and help them grow communities and develop – and help then become sustainable. And these people, they use the Standard as their mark of what mature is and that means that these people are also growing the standards to make sure that they are easier to use, can be used more widely, but also that it is based on actual real-world use cases.
It is a continuous process of improving these things
And then we are trying to work together, we work with other teams – the Italian Digital Team, City of Barcelona, City of Amsterdam, City of Aarhus or OS2 – to try and figure out how to make that better. It is a continuous process of improving these things.
Where do you see open source and public code move towards in the future?
Our hope is that all tasks which are core to fulfil the mission and mandate of public organisations are done using open, transparent and collaboratively developed source. We believe that this is not just necessary for business reasons but also to help governments develop high-quality, sustainable, cost-effective, and low-risk public services.