Why (not) Government Should Develop Their Own Software

Being a hardcore developer who cares deeply about software, and having worked for local government for the past eight years, I have pondered this question often. On the one hand, a running philosophical theme is that programming is the new literacy, and because software permeates every aspect of our lives, programming amounts to expressing knowledge, just like writing does.

On the other hand, programming still requires a fair amount of technical expertise and engineering skills, and is therefore difficult and costly to cultivate alongside of the core competencies of an organization. For smaller governments, being a software-competent organization is not on the table as a long-term strategy. Even worse, software is considered a burden, a necessary evil, not only by computer-averse personnel, but by the IT department itself. The price paid for that attitude is much higher than one would suspect.

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