First software released by U.S. govt. as Open Source?

by Todd Ogasawara

Linux Journal has an article discussing the U.S. Dept. of Labor's Workforce Connections Zope-based software product developed by DevIS that was released as Open Source code. The article speculates this code may be the first released by the U.S. government as Open Source code.

Not to take anything away from the fine work done by DevIS (who I had the pleasure to meet with during a conference last year), but the code may have been beaten by a few months for the title of first Open Source code released by the U.S. government. (Not that who was first is really that important compared to the importance of the DoL/DevIS contribution, by the way!).

According to the About Workforce Connections™ page, the Workforce Connections code was released on Dec. 25, 2003.

However, on June 6, 2003, the military health group's The Pacific Telehealth & Technology Hui press release said:
An electronic healthcare information system that operates on a Linux platform is now available to hospitals and clinics worldwide in a non-proprietary, open-source version The Pacific Telehealth & Technology Hui (Hui) announced this week the release of the Hui OpenVistaTM software on, an open-source software development web site.

In any case, who was first is not important in the larger scheme of things. I just wanted to point out that there is at least one other project that was released in 2003. And, with all the work going on in various places, there may be yet another project that was released even earlier :-)

Do you know of any other U.S. Government funded software projects released under an Open Source license? Let us know!


2004-06-13 16:41:57
Open source in government
I was writing open source code for the US government a long, long time ago. Everything I wrote belonged to the people of the US since it wasn't classified.

The stuff I was writing and playing with was very specific though, but we still passed it around to other researchers, modified it for our own use, and contributed changes.

But then, this was before open source was a political movement, the web was a big deal, and I was still writing programs in FORTRAN.

2004-06-14 05:51:06
Federal Open Source
Technically, the US Federal Government cannot release open source software because open source needs copyright, and Federal employees cannot copyright their work. All fruits of the Federal Government are de facto in the public domain, and accessible to everyone free of charge (modulo classified/priviledged work, work done by contractors, etc.).

The reason why this product could be released as Open Source is because the contractor, devIS, has the foresight and community-mindedness to do so. It is their work, which they can copyright, even if it was done under contract to for the Department of Labor.

Also, this project misses the mark by at least a decade. Don Libes over at NIST released expect in the early 1990s. The Census Bureau has made TIGER -- both as a geospatial data format and the raw data itself -- available for mumble years. And there is a lot of work like brian mentions that is free for the public to use, even if it isn't "released" for widespread use.

Nevertheless, there is great potential for open source in government -- not because it hasn't been done yet, but because government agencies are now collaborating with each other in new ways.

2004-06-14 07:06:09
Not first by a long shot

I was working on a project using Web Services and XML for the Library of Congress nearly 3 years ago.

We implemented two Web Services using Apache Axis, Tomcat, Xalan, and Xerces back in late '02/early '03. We released it Open Source about the same time, but it was only within the Library community, so almost no one saw it.

We had atleast a year and a half on this project and it's unlikey that we were even the first.

My former project: