Open source is software that takes into account not only technical input but also matters of ethics, the environment, the culture into which the technology, particularly software, will be placed and what political and social dynamics are at play. Open source software is designed and built in an unrestricted community of developers where contribution at all technical levels is open to everyone. In this development model there are no hidden modules or secret access. Software libraries are freely available under public licence and can be modified by end users or used “as is”. Both central code and user-modified code can be distributed freely.
The extra considerations provide direction to the core technology coding particularly in matter of the user environment; placement of symbols, language and many other aspects besides.
The aim of Open Source Software is to provide a development methodology that combines large-scale peer review with complete process transparency. Open Source Software is patent-free and users can harness its power without restriction beyond the normal public licencing system.
In the world of proprietary licenced technology there are user-generated forums where usage problems, deficiencies in design and deleterious bugs are made known. However these forums provide no real access to problem fixes until the developing entity eventually responds. Open Source Software by its nature provides an open-source knowledge base contributed to by thousands of like-minded and technically adept users. Problems, once identified, will normally have a dedicated band of volunteers working on any identified problem within a very short time span. The efficiencies and flexibility of this operational model are immediately accessible by all users with little imposed cost, more reliability and improved quality.
Open Source Software ends predatory proprietary practices and allows technology to be focused where it will achieve the greatest good in all environments. Open source projects can engage communities where proprietary technology is prohibitively costly. These projects provide opportunities for technically adept members of developing communities to gain expertise and eventually employment.
Companies that create proprietary technology solutions are driven but also constrained by some very powerful forces. Firstly no company can survive unless its revenue stream exceeds it costs. This, the profit motive, is very well understood in all societies. Business owners and managers closely monitor all activities that impact the ability to make a profit. If a potential market is too small to generate a profit it will be ignored. Governments also legitimise the profit imperative by introducing laws mandating fiduciary responsibility. This legally requires companies to make a profit on behalf of their shareholders. Companies can be sued by shareholders and penalised by government authorities for undertaking activities that are altruistic and do not generate a profit.
Therefore it becomes crucial important in many societies that organisations such as the Open Technology Foundation exist to create technology solutions that are not hampered by law and profit motives. Developers joining the Open Technology Foundation are encouraged to adopt the principles annunciated by Vinay Gupta in his article Starting an anti-patent-abuse appropriate technology political bloc?
Various inititiatives have been introduced at the university level to demonstrate to students how the nexus between the sciences, greater social justice and economic improvement works succesfully.
Significant numbers of open source scientific tools are now readily available for all interested parties to use and share. Publications that show how to create open source hardware laboratories are also easily found on the Internet.
The Open Technology Foundation has been created to encourage the significant pool of expertise and talent that exists in developing economies that can be given impetus and focus to produce the type of software that is needed in our growing economies.
Innovation comes from technical visionary minds, both young and old, that have been given the nuturing environment to grow in.