It’s official, we’re living in the age of open source. It is quite literally the foundation of the internet. Its increasing popularity is due to its inherent benefits – providing users with inherent digital agility, affordability, security, and accountability.
Over the past decade or so, even the Federal Government has made an increasing commitment to open source, and today is part of a flourishing open-source ecosystem. Its commitment even extends to an official policy around OSS included in the “Federal Source Code” policy. On top of that, in 2016, the government took another step forward in the open source space, launching code.gov, an online hub that houses the open-source code from dozens of projects across more than 25 different agencies.
J.J. Toothman, President and Founder of Little Rock Point, worked with NASA to help build their digital strategy. He talked to Velocitize about the benefits of open-source software and some of the ways that NASA and the rest of the US government are putting it to use.
“The People’s Code”
The adoption of open source software varies throughout the government – with each agency taking a different stance on it. NASA, which is an independent agency of the executive branch – is fiercely committed to open source, and has rapidly embraced it over the last ten years, Toothman told Velocitize. “The Obama Administration was very progressive with the adoption of OSS and paved the way for other agencies to follow suit,” he aid.
While some agencies like NASA have wholeheartedly embraced open source, however, others have a natural hesitancy. “There is some hesitancy from agencies – like the IRS, for example – to adopt these solutions due to perceptions around security concerns,” he said.
Open source software is often the victim of perception biases. In fact, some of the most secure open-source software available, like WordPress for example, still faces major misconceptions around security.
“In my personal opinion, this perception is terribly misguided,” Toothman said.
OSS is not a security risk. Security, both proprietary and open source, is an ongoing process that should be continuously managed and assessed over time.
The sky is not the limit.
NASA is among the Federal Government agencies that have made the largest commitment to open source. Just earlier this year in March, as part of its Technology Transfer Program, NASA open sourced thousands of free tools to support the innovation economy.
“The software catalog is our way of supporting the innovation economy by granting access to tools used by today’s top aerospace professionals to entrepreneurs, small businesses, academia and industry,” the press release said.
Open-source software provides a springboard for creativity, providing users with a framework to innovate.
NASA also embraces open source as a core part of its digital strategy. NASA.gov uses Drupal, while blogs.nasa.gov uses WordPress, Toothman told Velocitize.
Cost, flexibility, freedom, security, and accountability are just a few of the benefits of open source, which are unparalleled by even the most sophisticated proprietary solutions.
“In my opinion, open source software just provides better solutions,” Toothman said. “It offers better support, often times with a robust knowledge base around it. The open standards also enables easy integration with other technology.”
In today’s world, with the martech stack exploding and the rapid emergence of new technology, easy integration is essential for digital success.
In addition, open source also provides a huge competitive advantage as it accelerates time to market. “Most open-source solutions don’t get you 100 percent of the way there but they get you 80 percent of the way, which empowers you to more easily deliver a solution,” Toothman said.
Toothman also called out the improved end-user experience on projects built with open-source software. With open-source solutions, you’re handing your client a project with inherent flexibility, compared to a proprietary solution where it is often a huge challenge to even make the most minor changes. Take WordPress, for example – it provides its users with the ease-of-use to own their publishing experience. This empowers digital marketers and content creators to move forward faster.
Private and public organizations alike recognize these benefits – and both are rapidly embracing open source into their digital strategies.
With OSS, anything is possible. NASA recognizes this and proves that when it comes to open source, the sky is most definitely not the limit.