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The OpenCivic distro of Drupal is designed to support communities of software developers in creating, cataloguing and sharing software applications. It provides a platform for sharing information specifically about "civic software" used by governments and nonprofit organizations to provide public services. The main goal of this distro therefore is to help build websites that enable people to share information about software applications — what they do, who created them and uses them, where they have been deployed, and how well the software works. With funding support from the World Bank and other sponsors, it is intended for use by civic tech practitioners in international development contexts.

OpenCivic builds on work that began with the Code for America Commons, a “marketplace for open innovation in government” that tracks hunders of apps in nearly 300 cities. The CfA Commons was designed to serve as a community-edited resource that would help governments and other public service organizations make better use of scarce technology dollars by sharing technology information among governments and institutions.

In continuation of this sharing spirit, the World Bank used the codebase for the CfA Commons as the starting-point for a separate project that launched in December 2012 — a Sanitation Hackathon that brought together civic technologists for a marathon programming event that challenged programmers to develop innovative software solutions that addressed real-world problems in public sanitation. During the months leading up to the event, subject matter experts and members of the public created, submitted and voted on problem definitions that highlight specific sanitation challenges that could be mitigated by innovative information and communication technologies. Then, during a weekend-long marathon event, teams of programmers in cities around the world developed innovative solutions to these problem definitions.

Through the creation of the CfA Marketplace and the Sanitation Hackathon, we realized that hackathons and application catalogs could share information to create a virtuous circle of technology innovation. Hackathons are a natural way for programmers and civic problem-solvers to come together and share new ideas that lead to innovation. Some of those innovations succeed and become fully-realized software applications. Successful projects then need to be shared with others so that organizations working to improve community life can spend less time reinventing solutions to the same problems and more time sharing solutions as they become available.

Thanks to additional funding from the World Bank and Nesta, this codebase has now been used as the basis for a Drupal distribution that has been used to build additional websites including:

Roadmap

The OpenCivic distro is still in the process of being built. Eventually it is intended to have all of the following components. At present the Applications Catalog, Community and Hackathon components are mostly functional. The current development work plan is available as a Google doc.

  • Applications Catalog: Listings of software applications, with information about organizations that have created them as well as stories about specific instances where organizations have deployed the applications. It therefore includes the following content types:
    • Applications
    • Organizations
    • Deployments
  • Community: General social-networking functionality to facilitate event announcements and listings, blogging, and sharing information via a wiki. Includes the following content types:
    • Event
    • Blog
    • Wiki
  • Hackathon: Information relevant to hosting hackathons, at which teams come together to start projects that address specific problems. Content types include:
    • Problem Statements
    • Projects
    • Teams
  • Interoperability: This provides an API and protocols through which information can be shared between websites. Elements include:
    • Server-side API.: This will provide the basic functionality through which a website created by the distro can accept automated via HTTP to create, retrieve, update and delete content (e.g., Applications, Organizations, Deployments, Events, etc.)
    • Client-side content sharing: This will provide the functionality through which a website created by the distro can push, pull and synchronize its content with other websites
    • Language localization
  • Open Data: Sharing datasets specific to civic problems and solutions, which makes it easy for developers to find data resources and to visualize how that data is structured.
    • Datasets and Resources
    • Visualization
  • Apps Contest: These are similar in some ways to hackathons, with a few differences. Related content types include:
    • Problem Statements
    • Submissions
    • Prizes
  • Civic Sandboxes: This would be a system that lets developers and software application customers quickly launch an instance of the application so they can try using it.
  • Investment Network: An AngelList-like financing system to help turn hackathon projects into full apps and businesses capable of sustainably delivering services.

Initial work on this distro has been done on GitHub. Ticket numbers in early commit messages may therefore refer to issues that were filed there:

https://github.com/civic-commons/opencivic

Join the OpenCivic Drupal group for discussions.

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