An marketplace for open source tasks
Often, government technology projects are built by large companies using
closed source code, which means the backend is often proprietary and not
available to the public. 18F wanted to find a way to bring more small
vendors into government technology work while promoting the use of open
Many small vendors choose not to enter the government contracting market
because of the administrative burden of securing many government
contracts. But there happens to be an existing option that makes very
small purchases much easier.
Leveraging the micro-purchase authority
18F, like other government organizations, is able to buy items under
$3,500 in value with relatively few rules and restrictions by using
what’s called a “micro-purchase authority.” Micro-purchases are often
used for things like office chairs or supplies, but 18F decided to use
it to buy bits of open source code from private vendors.
To do this, the team created the Micro-Purchase Marketplace
platform, a reverse auction house
where federal agencies can work with 18F to post clearly-defined coding
tasks and registered vendors can bid on how much they would be willing
to be paid to complete the task. The platform allows agencies with
existing product teams to quickly add new features to their existing
open source projects at a low cost and gives small businesses a way to
enter into the government marketplace.
The platform has seen consistent interest from vendors, showing that
there’s a market for these small types of software purchases. Other
governments have also shown interest, with Singapore creating a
customized version of the
platform and British Columbia
creating a similar
We’re currently working on growing the marketplace while making it
easier for other government entities to re-use the platform to provide
opportunities to the same vendor pool. We are also experimenting with
tasks over the micro-purchase limit.