Startup releases open source code for city government sites


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A new startup released a tool last week that could allow tech-savvy city governments to quickly set up cloud-hosted websites.

ProudCity made the full version of its WordPress-based content management system available on its GitHub repo. The code includes ProudCity’s full suite of capabilities, including its new e-commerce and social media plugins.

Luke Fretwell, CEO and founder of the startup, said ProudCity released the code because of its commitment to open source technology. But even with the code, many local tech departments would need his company’s expertise to get their sites up and running, he said. 

“Our philosophy around building technology is to really not to lock government in,” Fretwell said. “Our platform really gives them the freedom because we feel like we can have a competitive advantage around building a great product and customer experience.”

ProudCity’s Chief Technology Officer Jeff Lyons told StateScoop it would release updates to GitHub — as well as to the platforms of live city websites — at least every two weeks. Security updates to the site will be released as needed.

The company, which launched in mid-January, developed and now hosts the city website for West Carrollton, Ohio. It is now working with about a dozen other cities to develop active betas for potential websites. 

Officials who want to see how their city’s site would look on ProudCity’s platform can visit the company’s “start” page. From there, officials can enter their city’s name, and ProudCity generates a demo site, pulling in a picture from the city’s Wikipedia entry and filling in dummy copy to demonstrate where content would exist on the site. 

Users can then enter their email and start a beta site, where they enter real information about the city.

To deploy a site to a public domain, ProudCity charges cities one cent per resident per month. For example, according to 2010 census data, West Carrollton, Ohio had 13,143 residents. Under ProudCity’s model, West Carrollton would pay about $131 per month, and less than $1,600 annually.

“In the past, a full build out would have cost [a city], at a minimum, probably $5,000, more likely $10,000,” Lyons said. “We wanted to get rid of that to make it as simple as possible.”

Fretwell said the largest city that has expressed interest in ProudCity has approximately 120,000 residents, meaning that city would pay ProudCity around $1,200 per month and just more than $14,000 per year.

ProudCity sites come pre-loaded with modules and integrations to allow cities to manage and publish city events, integrate their social media feeds and display city services on a map. City sites built on the platform can also easily integrate with Google Translate, Google Analytics, MailChimp and other third-party applications.

Through existing partnerships with SeeClickFix — a 311 service provider — and Stripe — an e-commerce company — ProudCity sites can integrate existing 311 services into their website and allow citizens to pay bills and perform other financial interactions with the government.

Looking ahead, the company is expecting to work with cities to navigate the procurment process. Often, governments have trouble budgeting for pay-as-you-go cloud pricing models. 

“We have a really solid base of people that are interested that we’ve set up betas for and they’re testing,” Fretwell said. “What we’re finding is that cities are looking at it and are really trying to understand how to get it.”

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Digital Services, Innovation, Jeff Lyons, Luke Fretwell, Ohio, Open Source, ProudCity, Software, State & Local News, States, Tech News, Websites