The United States government has plenty of secrets, but the source code for its new online petition voting software is not one of them. Friday, the Obama administration announced that it would release the software on Github for anyone, including other governments, to use.
The software, called “We the People,” enables the Obama administration to provide citizens with an efficient way to sign petitions and allow policy officials to review them. As the President himself explained last September, “Among our commitments, we’re launching a new online tool — called “We the People” — to allow Americans to directly petition the White House, and we’ll share that technology so any government in the world can enable its citizens to do the same.”
The app is designed to be scalable, which is evident by its requirement for MongoDB, an open source NoSQL database designed for scalability and high performance. Part of the ongoing development will involve migrating from MongoDB to MySQL in order to make it easier to interface with Drupal. It is designed to plug into Drupal, which is the open source content management system of choice for Whitehouse.gov.
This is not the first open source project the White House has released. It has previously developed several modules for Drupal that add functionality, such as content-optimizing metadata, an email delivery module, and some accessibility improvements. The White House also actively maintains an open content policy, releasing most content on its website under a Creative Commons license.
As for the petition software, the White House has opted to release it under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL) version 2. It is free for downloading, forking, modifying, and redistribution without fear of being tracked down by government agents. The White House encourages other governments around the world to try it as well.