How governments use GitHub

Moritz Bartl moritz at
Mon May 2 23:52:03 UTC 2016

The government GitHub ecosystem
Apr 27, 2016
Emanuel Feld

Governments have been flocking to GitHub.

Their reasons are plenty: the promise of “private sector” tools, a
conviction that publicly-funded code should be public, the company’s
evangelism (and stickers), etc. Whatever the case, GitHub now hosts at
least 600 government organizations, with over 9,000 public repositories
between them.

I had a notion of the global ecosystem this activity has sprouted—the
players and their interactions—but wanted to back it up with data.

So, using GitHub’s API, I compiled a database of government GitHub
organizations, their repositories, members, and contributors and dove in.


Overall, reuse within the government GitHub “ecosystem” is uneven and

Nearly all popular repositories (inside and outside of government) were
created by US and UK national organizations. The bulk are standards or
frameworks. Modular products, like’s CKAN extensions, also
seem relatively reusable.

Collaborative work and reuse is most concentrated within the large US
and UK national-level networks. This may point to the importance of
scale, “real world” interactions (e.g. talks, meet-ups, employees
switching between organizations), and the alignment of policy
priorities, timelines, licensing, and tech stacks.

14% of repositories have no further activity after being posted to
GitHub. 46% remain under development a year after they were created.

I didn’t find a license file for half of the repositories. At least 13%
use the MIT license. At least 8% use some version of the GPL. License
choice varies geographically.

Government GitHub organizations are bringing some new users to the
platform along with them. But 45% of the users predate the government
organizations they contribute to.

Estonia has the most government repositories per capita at 72.8 per
million residents (hover over and click to zoom in on the map up top).


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