NGA releases open source code on GitHub

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The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency did a first for a U.S. intelligence agency by opening an account on open source site GitHub earlier this month.

The NGA uploaded two related projects to the online repository and version tracking system in early April – one for geographic tasking system web app developed with the Django web framework, and the other a set of installer software for running the web app on a virtualized platform.

The NGA has unlimited rights to the source code of both projects and released them under a highly permissive license permitting users to redistribute or modify for any purpose (including commercial), provided that any derivative work contains this notice:

Elements of this work contain GeoQ: The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and The MITRE Corporation jointly produced this work.

Government agencies with an interest in releasing code as opens source are gravitating toward GitHub, said John Scott, a campaigner for open source adoption among military agencies.

Agencies "are realizing that we need better ways of sharing our code within agencies, and open source is a good method for doing that."

The Defense Information Systems Agency hosts an open source repository dubbed Forge.mil, but it lacks the social, interactive features that GitHub provides, Scott said.

Forge.mil "is like a locker at the bus station – people put things in there and forget they're in there," he added.

The DISA site is also restricted to users with Defense Department-issued certificates, meaning the number of possible coders is more restricted than the unclassified universe to which GitHub provides access.

NGA should be commended, Scott said. "This is just a start, hopefully, of great things."

For more:
- go to the NGA's GitHub account page

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