As local and state operational budgets dwindle, many government agencies are turning to open source software to help manage workflow both internally and with other departments. As part of a Collaboration Initiative, The New York State Department of Labor launched LaborForge, a public repository designed specifically for sharing labor-related source code and design documents.
That might not sound like a particularly big deal at first, but when you consider many of the projects in the repository concern systems that affect things like call center operations and unemployment benefits, suddenly LaborForge looks like an idea that ought to be expanded to all 50 states.
"By leveraging the Open Source development methodology, we extend the finite resources of the New York State Labor Department to include individuals in other organizations. The Open Source methodology is a collaborative, voluntary approach to software development. The rewards to the Labor Department can be significant when committed volunteers contribute significant code segments, evaluate and test code, and provide new ideas for expanded functionality," reads the Web site.
Right now, the repository is limited to software used by the Department of Labor but New York State is working on an overall Strategy for Openess [PDF]. LaborForge is a bold idea with far-reaching implications. Other agencies nationwide are free to download and modify any software in the repository, and it could easily lead to collaboration that results in better citizen-accessed systems. Anything that lessens the hassle of calling government information hotlines or streamlines the process of accessing worker benefits can't help but be a good thing.
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