Canadian Digital Service Logo with the Map of Canada.

Image: Deviantart / heroictoast

The Canadian government has demonstrated significant support for open source software (OSS) in a number of ways. One key instance was the establishment of the "Canadian Digital Service" (CDS) in 2017, which advocates for the use of open technologies—including OSS—to enhance public services.

A conviction that I personally hold is that publicly funded software should be made open source. Governments worldwide could stand to benefit from collaboration on these open digital platforms. In this digital era, there seems to be no substantive reason why allied nations should not assist each other. Take, for example, a situation where France is developing a platform for medical records. If France were to release this platform as Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), the Canadian government could copy the code and adapt this software to their own national context. Any modifications and enhancements made by Canada would then be shared with France and any other participating country.

Utilizing Git as a version control system, we could facilitate global collaboration, bringing together the finest coders from every nation to address issues of global import.

I have found online several examples of FOSS initiatives from the Canadian Government, which include:

  • GCcode: GCcode is a dedicated open-source software repository platform for the Canadian federal government. It provides a space for government departments and agencies to share and collaborate on open-source software projects. More about GCcode
  • WET-BOEW (Web Experience Toolkit): This open-source project, managed by the Government of Canada, provides a set of reusable web components for building and maintaining innovative, accessible, usable, and interoperable websites. These ready-made web components are open source and free for use by departments and external web communities. Explore WET-BOEW
  • Notification-Api: This project, initiated by the Canadian Digital Service (CDS), is an open-source platform designed to facilitate the sending of emails and text messages to users. It mirrors a similar project by the UK's Government Notification Service. Check out Notification-Api

Numerous other open-source projects can be found on the Canadian Open Resource Exchange. Discover more

The CDS highlights several reasons why the Canadian government is advocating for open source:

  • It promotes good practice
  •  It eases collaboration
  • It enables external users to help improve it
  • It allows others to learn from your work
  • It facilitates the sharing of standards
  • It enhances government work transparency
  • It clarifies ownership
  • It promotes seamless government technology

Source: Sean Boots, Josh Ruihley. "Why open source matters". (2020)

University students interested in learning more about FOSS should encourage their faculty to partner with the Canada Open Source Projects (CANOSP). This organization equips students with the necessary tools to initiate or collaborate on numerous FOSS projects. CANOSP's Website

It is my firm belief that the Canadian Government is gearing towards substituting most of its proprietary software with FOSS. This shift could save taxpayers millions of dollars, particularly if international collaboration is pursued. Similarly, the business and education sectors need to take the leap into FOSS. As I frequently remark, there's no need to bolster the coffers of corporations when viable alternatives exist.


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