Source Software: Worldwide impact study

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Free/Libre/Open Source Software: Worldwide impact study

FLOSSWorld International Workshop

Brussels, Belgium, May 10-11, 2007

Papers are now available for download

The FLOSSWorld project aims to strengthen Europe's leadership in research into FLOSS and open standards, building a global constituency with partners from Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Croatia, India, Malaysia and South Africa.

Free/Libre/Open Source Software (FLOSS) is arguably one of the best examples of open, collaborative, internationally distributed production and development that exists today, resulting in tremendous interest from around the world, from government, policy, business, academic research and developer communities.

The problem
However, empirical data on the impact of FLOSS, its use and development is still quite limited. The FP5 FLOSS project and FP6 FLOSSPOLS project have helped fill in the gaps in our knowledge about why and how FLOSS is developed and used, but have necessarily been focussed on Europe. FLOSS is a global phenomenon, particularly relevant in developing countries, and thus more knowledge on FLOSS outside Europe is needed.

Project objectives
FLOSSWorld primarily aims to strengthen Europe’s leadership in international research in FLOSS and open standards, and to exploit research and policy complementarities to improve international cooperation, by building a global constituency of policy-makers and researchers.
It is expected that FLOSSWorld will enhance Europe’s leading role in research in the area of FLOSS and strongly embed Europe in a global network of researchers and policy makers, and the business, higher education and developer communities. FLOSSWorld will enhance the level of global awareness related to FLOSS development and industry, human capacity building, standards and interoperability and e-government issues in the geographical regions covered by the consortium.
The project will result in a stronger, sustainable research community in these regions. Broad constituency-building exercises risk losing momentum after initial workshops and meetings – without specific actions to sustain a focus. FLOSSWorld will perform three global empirical studies of proven relevance to Europe and third countries, which will provide a foundation for FLOSSWorld's regional and international workshops.

A four track approach
FLOSSWorld Is designed around three research tracks, each providing insights and gathering empirical evidence on important aspects of FLOSS usage and development:

  1. Human capacity building: investigating FLOSS communities as informal skills development environments, with economic value for employment generation
  2. Software development: what are the regional and international differences – technical, organisational, business – between FLOSS projects across countries?
  3. e-Government policy: what policies and behaviour do governments around the world adopt towards FLOSS, open standards and interoperability?
    Following and in parallel with the research tracks will be a fourth track, for workshops and building further collaboration:
  4. workshops and working group activities to build an international research and policy development constituency: regional and international workshops and focused working groups from the represented target regions. A first phase focuses on actual collaboration by implementing tasks 1 to 3, the second phase focuses on analysis and building concrete future collaborations. Global dissemination is part of this track, as is the engagement of organisations outside the FLOSSWorld consortium.

Regional groups within FLOSSWorld

Region Geographical coverage
East Asia China (>3 provinces) with possible external observers from Japan, Korea
Southern Asia India (>3 states), Malaysia, possible external observers
Africa South Africa, plus external participants from at least 2 other African countries
South-east Europe Bulgaria, Croatia, possible external participants
Latin America Argentina, Brazil, plus external participants from at least one other Latin American country

Innovative, tried-and-tested methods
The FLOSSWorld studies will be empirical in nature and survey-based, and the software projects study (Track 2) will also include technical analysis of software produced by regional FLOSS projects. Studies will build upon the methodology and experience – as well as the data set – of the skills-development and employer surveys and e-government survey in the on-going FLOSSPOLS project (FP6) and its predecessor the FLOSS project (FP5). For Track 2 the experience of MERIT and URJC from the more technically oriented CALIBRE (FP6) project will be valuable.
The skills-development and e-government surveys of FLOSSPOLS (focussed on the EU15 countries) are the first and largest of their kind in the world, and have already delivered results. Similarly, the quantitative measurement studies of thousands of FLOSS software development projects in CALIBRE and FLOSS demonstrate the unique proven expertise of MERIT and URJC, the two partners working on the software study in FLOSSWorld.

Potential impact
Over 300 000 copies of the FP5 FLOSS project report have been downloaded since 2003, and “FLOSS”, created as a project acronym, is now a widely used term for the entire free software/open source phenomenon in many parts of the world. The FLOSSWorld project is expected to have a similarly high impact at the international level, since the substantial issues addressed – skills development and e-government activities – have not been examined before at an international level. FLOSS drew considerable international interest, including follow-on studies (FLOSS-US, FLOSS-Japan) whose proponents (Stanford University, Mitsubishi Research) are external supporters of the FLOSSWorld project. FLOSSWorld aims to broaden the scope of international collaboration well beyond the current consortium partners.

 project reference: FP6-IST-015722
 start date: May 1, 2005
 duration: 26 months
 project cost: €663,000
 contract type: SSA
 end date: June 30, 2007
 project funding: €663,000
 contact:   Rishab Aiyer Ghosh


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