Tech Speak 101 for Local Government Digital Projects

For local government departments looking to kickoff digital solutions, learning basic tech speak can improve project meetings with developers.


Government agencies deploy cutting edge technologies to improve services and reduce operating expenses. But that doesn’t mean everyone using or proposing new systems and tools can speak tech. The following list of terms and resources may help local government officials work better with developers and technologists and navigate an easier path to digital modernization.

Agile Development

This is an approach to development where software is released and tested where ongoing updates based on feedback are made. Associated with the term agile is the term “Scrum,” which is the practical process for Agile Development.

Get a high-level overview of how it works for non-techies on Medium.

Apps vs. Websites

Should an agency create a mobile app or a website? It depends on the budget and the goals. Apps can be more expensive to build, but they may offer an agency sharper insights into customer needs. Conversely, website-based tools like Pittsburgh’s online building and zoning tool, can quickly modernize an entire department and vastly increase its efficiency.

Learn the eight differences between apps and websites on


Short for Application Programming Interface, API’s are how local governments like Douglas County promote public events using Amazon Alexa. An API is a catalyst that makes it possible for customers to interface with organizations via a conduit.

Read about how APIs work and what they can do on

Back End vs Front End

While these terms may seem obvious to some, they are really critical to understand when agencies sit down with developers to discuss components of digital solutions. While the front end is customer-facing, there is more to talk about than design elements because development more often than not involves coding and functionality. The back-end is the server, data and the application that manages the data.

You might also hear the term “Full Stack,” which handles not only the front end and back end development, but handles server operations and solution architecture.

Find out how the terms can mean something different, depending on the task, on Coder.Today.

Databases and Servers

There are many types of databases, such as relational and operational, and they hold data, while a server -- which may be a physical device or used via cloud -- is where the code behind the application lives.

Learn more about the differences between servers and databases on Quora.

IT Charge-Back Model

This is a way for governments to centralize and structure the costs of IT services, hardware or software to an agency (i.e., business unit) in which they are used. There are various cost-recovery models to use, and lots of business strategies to implement them successfully.

Consider how to run IT like a business on


These are not superheroes, they are preferred data interchange formats for storing and defining data. JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) is a native data interchange format while Asynchronous JavaScript And XML (AJAX) uses the extension of existing markup language standard popular in the late 2000s, according to Software Development Times.

Read about their format usages and recommendations on

Language vs. Framework

Language is syntax and semantics while a framework is a set of computer language brought together to streamline coding tasks and reduce developer time investments. However, the framework does not always provide the specifications desired.

Explore the pros and cons of language coding from scratch versus with frameworks on

Open Source

Open source is software where the source code is made freely available to use and enhance.

Learn more about what it means to use open source software for development on

Get more words to know in government tech on the GovLoop website.

Andrea Fox is Editor of and Senior Editor at Lexipol. She is based in Massachusetts.