WhiteHouse.gov releases open source code

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WhiteHouse.gov releases open source code

Drupal code a boon to the community.

The U.S. White House today released some of the custom code behind its web site for the open source community to review, use or improve.

The code extends the open source Drupal content management system (CMS) that also runs the web sites of Amnesty International and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Four modules were released: Context HTTP Headers, which adds metadata to web pages; Akamai, which integrates WhiteHouse.gov with its content delivery network; GovDelivery, which integrates the CMS with the government's e-mail system; and NodeEmbed, which improves accessibility of rich media for people with disabilities.

The release coincided with DrupalCon 2010 in San Francisco this week, where New York State Senate CIO Andrew Hoppin discussed "Open Source in Government" with WhiteHouse.gov lead developer David Cole.

Last week, the New York State Senate publicly released 24 Drupal modules that constituted a majority of its website's custom code.

"By releasing some of our code, we get the benefit of more people reviewing and improving it," Cole wrote on the WhiteHouse.gov blog.

"We're excited to see how developers across the world put our work to good use in their own applications," he wrote.

Australian independent software vendor (ISV) Agileware has worked with the Drupal community on modules like Apache Solr and Drupal core for more than five years.

Agileware's director Justin Freeman welcomed the WhiteHouse.gov code and planned to use the site as a case study for public sector clients with concerns about deploying open source software.

"The public sector can be very risk adverse," he told iTnews. "Relying on an open source project for crucial public facing infrastructure [such as a web site] is a key issue."

Besides demonstrating the benefits of Drupal, Freeman said the release of WhiteHouse.gov's custom code showed that the organisation was willing to contribute to the community.

"The Drupal team for WhiteHouse.gov was three people. Yet, thousands of Drupal developers worldwide directly contributed to the WhiteHouse.gov by being a part of the Drupal community," he said.

"Giving back to the community is very important ... [it] is equally beneficial for [WhiteHouse.gov] and the Drupal community, since others in the community can now also review and build on those contributions."

"The code looks great and are useful contributions to the Drupal community," he said.

WhiteHouse.gov's release was in line with President Barack Obama's aim of "Transparency and Open Government". In an executive memorandum on 21 January 2009, Obama wrote that the government should be transparent, participatory and collaborative.

Open source software currently is utilised by many Australian government agencies, including the Bureau of Meteorology, Australian Federal Police and the Department of Defence.

But despite the Australian Government Information Management Office's (AGIMO) 2005 'Guide to Open Source Software', Freeman said the Australian public sector had yet to endorse open source to the same extent as the U.S. Government.

"[The] pm.gov.au [website] was launched on Drupal, however there has been very little information provided on why Drupal was selected or even whether this is signifies the Australian Government endorsing open source software within the public sector," he said.

"More can be done to support local Australian companies that develop and provide support for open source software."

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