The House opens up to open source

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(Photo credit: Timothy Appnel/Flickr)

Traditionally, members of the House of Representatives have been presented with a limited plate of options when choosing technology to run their offices and manage their web presences. Members that wanted to take advantage of open source solutions — which are restriction-free, reusable and frequently more cost-effective — faced significant uncertainty and were pushed towards a small selection of proprietary options.

That may be about to change thanks to an effort by Sunlight, the OpenGov Foundation, the Congressional Data Coalition and a growing number of lawmakers.

Members, committees and staff in the House are now able to choose between proprietary, closed technology and open source solutions when conducting official business. They will also have the flexibility to participate in open source software communities, and to contribute software code developed with taxpayer dollars back to the public under an open source license.

The understanding and use of open source software in the House may get a quick boost thanks to the impending launch of a House Open Source Caucus, led by Reps. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, and Jared Polis, D-Colo.

These steps forward will enable the House to adapt more quickly to changes in technology, operate more transparently and improve communication between government and the people.