New article: Open collaboration in the public sector – The case of social coding on GitHub

Cover imageGovernment Information Quarterly has just published a new article titled “Open collaboration in the public sector – the case of social coding on Github“.


Open collaboration has evolved as a new form of innovation creation in the public sector. Government organizations are using online platforms to collaborative create or contribute to public sector innovations with the help of external and internal problem solvers. Most recently the U.S. federal government has encouraged agencies to collaboratively create and share open source code on the social coding platform GitHub and allow third parties to share their changes to the code. A community of government employees is using the social coding site GitHub to share open source code for software and website development, distribution of data sets and research results, or to seek input to draft policy documents. Quantitative data extracted from GitHub’s application programming interface is used to analyze the collaboration ties between contributors to government repositories and their reuse of digital products developed on GitHub by other government entities in the U.S. federal government. In addition, qualitative interviews with government contributors in this social coding environment provide insights into new forms of co-development of open source digital products in the public sector.


  • Open collaboration is introduced as a new form of innovation creation to code, share, and improve government software code.
  • Quantitative data about contributions and reuse of software code is analyzed using a social network analysis approach.
  • Contributors to the government social coding process have the intention to improve existing code for inhouse reuse.
  • Contributors mostly hail from within government, while code reuse is distributed across the world.
  • Code is not limited to website elements or online platforms, but also includes datasets and draft policy document.


Mergel, I. (2015): Open collaboration in the public: The case of social coding on GitHub, in: Government Information Quarterly, 32(2015), pp. 464-472, doi: 10.1016/j.giq.2015.09.004.


About Ines Mergel

I am Full Professor of Public Administration at the Department of Politics and Public Administration at University of Konstanz, Germany. Previously, I served as Assistant and then Associate Professor (with tenure) at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, NY. In my research, I focus on informal social networks in the public sector and the adoption and diffusion of digital service innovations in government organizations. I teach classes on social media management, digital government, public management, and social network analysis.

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