MoD scientists publish open source code on GitHub for first time

Scientists at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) have for the first time released a piece of software for editing and improvement by the public.

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) is using social coding website GitHub to host the code for a web application called ‘Ideaworks’.

The application, which Dstl developed as a low-cost and quick prototype, allows groups of people to collate, comment on and rate ideas. It also permits users to create projects and other packages of work that have developed from the ideas, according to the GitHub page.

Ideaworks was selected to be the first piece of software published on GitHub by the MoD because of its “because of its simplicity, low risk and potential benefit to the free and open source software community - particularly those organising hackathons”, according to Dstl.

Dstl is a trading fund of the MoD responsible for researching and designing defence and security technology. It has sites in Oxford, Gosport, Sevenoaks, Fareham and Salisbury.

Dstl’s chief technical officer Andy Bell said: “Sharing code in this way allows us to reach out to a wider population of experts, so that they can draw on our work, using the application to potentially improve their products allowing us to learn from their knowledge and expertise, possibly enhancing our code or finding and fixing any bugs.”

Other government departments already use GitHub to share code publicly, including the Cabinet Office and the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

GitHub is routinely used by the Government Digital Service (GDS) as part of its commitment to “coding in the open”.

The cross-government ‘digital by default service standard’ written by GDS instructs teams building digital public services to “make all new source code open and reusable, and publish it under appropriate licences.”

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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