New release of Standard for Public Code

The sixth version of Standard for Public Code has been released on GitHub and the development of version 0.2.1 is open for contributions

Published on: 05/11/2020
Last update: 08/05/2021

On 4 November, a new version of Standard for Public Code was released and appeared on GitHub. This is version 0.2.0. The Standard is a collection of criteria, which are necessary for creating a sustainable and reusable public open code. The Foundation for Public Code, the organisation behind the creation of the document, has opened it to new contributions that can improve the standard further. These contributions are to be the included in a version 0.2.1, they write on Twitter.

Foundation for Public Code (Logo)


The Standard for Public Code is a living document and the Foundation for Public Code writes on its website: 'We define ‘public code’ as open source software developed by public organizations, together with the policy and guidance needed for reuse'.

The Foundation for Public Code has a GitHub page, where the Standard lives along with an about-subpage and the Foundation’s governance card game. It is an interactive game with the purpose to foster reflection about the governance of public code bases.


Some changes in the Standard

In the new version, the authors specified the criteria for contributions and divided it into two sections: 'Make contributing easy' and 'Welcome contributors'. The first of the two focuses on creating trust in the community to encourage new contributors and to create good governance that prevents the split of a project. The second section, 'Welcome contributors', aims at ensuring that users can solve problems and add new features individually or jointly. Both sections want to help users decide which codebase to engage in.

The second change mentioned here is more generic. There has been a change where the word MUST is replaced with SHOULD. This makes the Standard more approachable for public organisations since it makes it easier to fulfil the requirement.

A third change is related to the fact that the Standard has broadened up its target group as the word 'cities' has been substituted by 'public organisations'.


Guidelines for all actors

The Standard provides public organisations with several guidelines to develop their reusable open source IT solutions. It allows for reuse and more collaboration. To ease the work for all the actors in the process, the Foundation for Public Code has divided each of their sections into paragraphs with activities for policy makers, management, and developers and designers.


Software code == legal code

The Foundation for Public Code is founded in 2019 and sees software as a vital public infrastructure. Since public governance and services are dependent on software, it is necessary to talk public code so that data and software are subject to democratic processes. On the foundation's website, it is written: 'Building open, modular, portable public code gives cities more control and greater opportunity to reflect local values in their software development and implementation.'

The Foundation’s code stewards assist public bodies in complying with the Standard. One of the codes they are working on is OpenZaak. OpenZaak is a backend component used to help municipalities in managing and sharing data internally. At present time, the solution is used by 45 Dutch municipalities. Open Zaak is at the incubation stage and is working towards complying with the Standard for Public Code.



Final take-aways

  • Foundation for Public Code has released a new version of their Standard for Public Code, which is the living document intented to guide public bodies to a sustainable public code.
  • The organisation sees software as vital public infrastructure that should be taken seriously.