GC Open Source, the story so far

April 24, 2019


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2018 was undeniably the year of “digital” for our government. Among many other developments, we introduced a set of Digital Standards, began experimenting with delivering services through smart devices and launched the Digital Operations Strategic Plan, our plan to deliver better services to Canadians.

Anchoring all of these pieces is our desire to work more openly with citizens and partners to develop better digital services for Canadians. What you may not know is that one of the ways we’re doing this at the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) is through the use and development of open source solutions.

Where did our open source journey begin?

In October 2017, we began writing the Open First whitepaper, pulling together the collective knowledge of the open source community to help inform how the government can adopt a more “open” approach to information technology and information management. Through iterative developments with the community, we finalized version 1.0 of the Open Source whitepaper for endorsement with the Government of Canada Enterprise Architecture Review Board (EARB) in November 2018.

Why an open first approach?

Often times our focus is on how we can use software and technology to support or improve our operations and service delivery. We tend to forget about how we can support the people who deliver programs and services. An “open first” approach goes beyond technology to also consider the impact of cultural change on service delivery.

Culture can mean something different to many people. For us, an open culture embraces transparency and encourages inclusivity, adaptability, collaboration and community. So, what does this look like? Imagine:

  • Public servants sharing their work openly with everyone inside and outside government, valuing successes and failures for the lessons they provide.
  • Encouraging diverse points of view and including all voices in decision making.
  • Using accessible feedback channels for employees to offer suggestions or assist peers with problem solving.
  • Working with others from the outset, making all work accessible for other public servants to build upon.
  • Equipping and empowering people to make meaningful contributions.

Openness is at the core of our vision for a digitally enabled Canada. While it’ll take some time to shift our thinking, we can already see change happening across government and the benefits it’s yielding.

Take for example Assemblyline, a malware detection and analysis tool developed by the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security to help cyber defence teams automate the analysis of files. The Centre developed the tool using a combination of public domain and open-source software, and code developed in-house. The tool is accessible on BitBucket, an open-source software repository. The Cyber Centre team maintains a Google Group where anyone can contribute to the development of the tool and suggest improvements.

What’s next?

Canada’s 2018–2020 National Action Plan on Open Government identified the importance of further exploration and integration of open source tools for use in the government. More specifically, the Action Plan set out a commitment to “prioritize open source code in developing digital solutions.” We plan to do just that. Through the EARB, we continue to help other government departments align with industry best practices and support them in modernizing their operations to become “more digital.”

In 2019, our goal is to raise awareness and educate public servants and citizens about the Open First approach the GC is adopting to further digital and open government initiatives. We’ll be blogging more frequently and participating in some great conferences to help spread the word about open source solutions, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, we want to hear from public servants, citizens and industry too! If you’re passionate about these subjects, join our discussions and working group, the Open Source Advisory Board!

Guillaume has over 10 years’ experience working in the Canadian federal government, small and medium-sized businesses, and not-for-profit organizations.


He has worked as enterprise architect, technical specialist and business analyst, leveraging and championing the use of open source software to work openly and inclusively. In his current position as advisor at the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, Guillaume provides leadership and guidance on using Open Standards and Open Source Software in support of the new Digital Standards and the transition to a Digital Government of Canada.

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