Open Tools for Open Government


2 min read

The open data movement is evolving. For years we were primarily concerned with opening data any way possible. It has quickly become clear that it matters how we open data. We need to be open about the methods that produced the data, get the right type of open license, solve for reliability and sustainability, and consider the potential users and value of the data. And the software we use really matters.

At Development Seed we build open source tools for open data. We built Libra and landsat-util to make it easier to work with open satellite imagery data. We are working to deploy the software behind OpenStreetMap to allow the Philippines to collaborative manage road data across the whole of government. And many more.

There are strong reasons to use open source tools in open government.

  • As resources for open data evolve, open software can more easily be adapted to new business models and deployment strategies. Open data companies have been critical in helping quickly scale open data practice and to solve the hard technical challenges involved in heavy and complex data. Open data companies creating open tools give government better ability to weather changes in the market, and give governments the flexibility to take on their own management of the system as their resources grow or shrink.
  • Open source tools offer citizens transparency into the open data pipeline. This allows citizens to check the math, to replicate results, and to identify technical issues that compromise the quality or availability of the data.
  • Open source allows us to better pool our resources for better tools. Governments on the cutting edge can help to subsidize the market. Better software will be available for governments with limited resources and the barriers will be lower for open source startups in developing democracies.

Open source may not work for every need. But governments that are committed to tools for citizen empowerment, should strongly consider open tools when investing in software.

If you are at OGP, we will have a great panel at 3:00 on the use of open source tools for open government. Please join us.

What we're doing.