Petition Launched To Get The White House To Open Source Healthcare.gov Code
from the should-have-done-it-before dept
After the disastrous technological launch of the healthcare.gov website, built by political cronies rather than companies who understand the internet, there has been plenty of discussion as to why the code wasn’t open sourced. At that link, there’s a good discussion from On the Media, with Paul Ford, discussing what a big mistake it was that the government decided not to open source the code and be much more transparent about the process. It discusses the usual attacks on open source and why they almost certainly don’t apply to this situation.
And, now, a “We the People…” petition has been launched, asking the White House to open source the code to Healthcare.gov:
Release to the open source community the source code to healthcare.gov, specifically all code written by CGI Federal.
It is believed that the enrollment issues with healthcare.gov are likely due to poor coding practices in components that are unavailable to the world’s development community to evaluate. Code funded by taxpaying citizens should be made available to the general public as government funded development is generally public domain software. Please release the code so we may help fix any found issues.
Of course, there are a few issues with this. First of all, while things created by government employees is automatically public domain, works created by contractors is not. So while conceptually we can argue that the code should be open sourced, it’s not required by law. Second, and more importantly, it’s a lot harder to take proprietary code and then release it as open source, than it is to build code from the ground up to be open source (and it’s even more difficult to make sure that code is actually useful for anything). Indeed, if the code had been open sourced from the beginning, perhaps they wouldn’t make embarrassing mistakes like violating other open source licenses.
By this point, open sourcing the code isn’t going to fix things, but if more attention is put on the issue of closed vs. open code in government projects, hopefully it means that government officials will recognize that it should be open source from the beginning for the next big government web project.