Introducing OpenForge - how does it work and why is it needed?
OpenForge is Government of India's platform for open collaborative development of e-governance applications. Through this platform, the government wants to promote the use of open source software and sharing of e-governance related source code. In 2015, the Ministry of Electronics & IT, Government of India (MeitY) rolled out the "Policy On Collaborative Application Development by Opening the Source Code of Government Applications", which provides a framework for archiving government custom developed source code in repositories and opening these repositories for promoting reuse, sharing and remixing. The launch of the OpenForge platform is a logical follow on activity for the implementation of that policy.
OpenForge can play a pivotal role in preventing the problem of duplicity and fragmentation in e-governance projects. It can significantly bring down the total development time and costs, while promoting greater standardisation and reuse. OpenForge can become a catalyst in enabling collaborative development between Government departments / agencies and private organizations, citizens and developers to spur the creation of innovative e-governance applications and services.
OpenForge draws inspiration from the unprecedented global success of open source software and tools. The world's largest internet platforms like Facebook, Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, Twitter etc. use open source software extensively. Open source communities like Linux, Mozilla, Apache, Android, Drupal, Wordpress etc are driving innovation and low cost development across the technology world. Source code repositories like GitHub and SourceForge have made it possible for millions of open source developers to work collaboratively and share their code. The Government of India wants to emulate some of these trends in the Indian e-governance space with OpenForge.
One of the questions worth considering - why is a platform like OpenForge needed when GitHub and SourceForge already exist? Can't those platforms be used for hosting e-governance projects? Well, the answer lies in the horizontal (cross-sectional) nature of those platforms. GitHub & SourceForge are indeed very popular, but they don’t focus on government source code. OpenForge is a specialised platform solely for Indian e-governance and civic applications. Additionally, many government departments may not be able to use these external platforms due to restrictions on sharing of code/data on foreign hosted servers (outside India). OpenForge will enable these departments to collaborate and adopt open sourced development practices in a free manner.