How you deal with B.C. law could change thanks to these coders

Image by: Richard Akerman – Flickr

The BC Developers’ Exchange shares all

The BC Developers’ Exchange had an interesting proposition: they asked local entrepreneurs and developers to co-create and collaborate with government on their next big idea using a shared repository of public-sector code and data.

This goes well beyond just opening up public sector data to the general population. The BC Developers’ Exchange is proactively setting out to work side-by-side with people on entrepreneurial projects as well as making it possible for software solutions to be shared with local government and other parties anywhere around the world. 

Much of this has been made possible because of a decision made by the BC Developers’ Exchange to put all the public code they can get their hands on up on an open-source platform known as Github.

Github, which has been around since 2008, gives programmers the ability to work together, contribute openly to projects and browse repositories of data freely.

Setting the bar high

To some, this all might seem a little nerdy, and it is, but this experiment has many real-world applications.

Knomos, a Vancouver-based startup, has leveraged tools made available through BC Laws in order to create a visual legal research tool. Their goal is to change the way people engage with the law. As it stands today, when you or your lawyer search for legal information, you make your way over to the BC Laws website and scroll through a static, text-heavy website.

Unlike the traditional ways we search through text, Knomos’s technology uses unique visual representations to cut down search time significantly.

“When I’m trying to search for legal information or a particular answer to a question, my best friend is still Ctrl+F,” Knomos CEO Adam La France said at an event put on by the BC Developers’ Exchange on April 15. “If you are a legal professional, not only are you scrolling, you’re billing.”

Global Implications

What David Eaves, a policy entrepreneur and open government activist, finds really exciting about sharing public-sector code on an open platform like this one is that other government agencies and even foreign governments can use these resources and participate in the development of new tools, products and services together.

“If you can start to share the work that you are doing, then other governments can then use that, adapt it and any changes they make are then made available to you as well,” Eaves says. “It’s kind of a way of networking both government and people who want to volunteer together to offer better solutions in a really different and possibly significantly cheaper model.”