It is heartening to note that the new Government is trying hard to involve people in more and more of their policy initiatives[1]. One such initiative is their “Policy on Collaborative Application development by Opening the source code of Applications“.[2]

Since I have extensive experience working with Government Organizations to deploy various solutions, I take the liberty to comment and suggest some points that augment the central idea in their draft policy.

Need for standardization and simplification:

The foremost problem I see in order to create a culture of developing and using open source components are complex rules. Though there has been a start, a lot more simplification of rules is the need of the hour. In my experience, though we started out with a good set of documented processes, we finally ended up translating Swamy’s Handbooks and Manuals to Software Code. Very obviously the software turned out to be heavily customized for the usage of the organization.
Simplified and standardized processes across government organizations help in developing reusable and easily maintainable code. This, I think is a must do to encourage proliferation of open source culture.

A cloud based platform for apps
One of the main problems, most Government organization face is that they do not usually have dedicated IT personnel and even the ones they have are inundated with a lot of work. This leads to under-maintenance, support starved and no motivation to use scenarios.

A cloud based platform similar (in concept) to Salesforce[3] could go a long way in helping developers integrate components and solutions quickly, while easing maintenance nightmares for the organizations. Of course, the platform should be based on Open Source stacks.

Style Guides, Aesthetic Sense and Intuitive Design
Currently User Interfaces, most documentation (including this Draft Policy) suffer from just a “adequate-is-enough” syndrome. Recently there was an instance which made the rounds on social media, where a printout of a spreadsheet was pasted in another spreadsheet (for compliance) and circulated. As long as the real benefits of “digital” content is not realized by the user community, most of the efforts go useless.

Towards this, educating users, compiling and compelling adherence to style guides, inculcating an aesthetic sense towards creating content should be invested upon. Developers need to prioritize intuitive design, localization from the ground up for gaining maximum value from these efforts.

The Policy should consider these factors and put in a set of holistic guidelines, so that the entire program can be sustained and expanded.

I worked as a contractor for BARC, CSB, University of Mysore, BSNL to develop their e-Governance and other software for almost 10 years since 2001-2011. For most of them, I began by convincing them of the need to use open source software. I also committed to deliver and delivered the source code for software I developed.


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By shashi

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