GitHub’s Ben Balter at OpenGov Hack Night

GitHub’s Government Evangelist Ben Balter dropped by OpenGov Hack Night on May 6th to talk about how GitHub and open source software are changing the government does business.


GitHub is a social coding platform that allows people to collaborative design, code, and run open source web applications. It’s used extensively by civic technologists around the country to build civic apps.(You can see our intro to GitHub here)

To start, Balter first gives a short history on the open source movement. Open source software is software that has the source code freely available online and can be copied or modified without any cost to the users. Many organizations (including us!) have their open source projects posted on GitHub. Here’s Balter giving us a history of open source software.

Open source and GitHub are giving governments capacity to change the way they do business. A good example is the We the People petition platform used by the White House. If people want to improve the platform (or debate it’s actual effectiveness – they can do so on the GitHub page).

In Philadelphia, they used GitHub to help standardize a data set for flu shot data. (If that sounds familiar, it’s because our own Tom Kompare worked with former Philly CDO Mark Headd to form the standard so that anyone can use his flu shot app.)

One of the biggest and most exciting open source government projects was Gov.UK – a site that garnered a ton of attention when it merged a simple pull request which took out all the references to beta. Here’s Balter giving us some other examples of government open source projects.

Balter had two requests for attendees. The first is that if you’re a government employee that you join GitHub’s government community. The community provides support, training, and a forum for using GitHub inside government. The second is that if you have stories about cool projects using open government data – the government team at GitHub wants to hear from you! Here’s Balter with the details