One of our key research objectives is to open a dialogue with government and business policy makers and software managers in order to explore the pace of adoption of open source software (OSS). The nature of OSS means that it is difficult to form a macro view and to compare a country’s progress with others.
An important contribution to the field is the Open Source Index launched in 2008. This provides a simple tool for assessing a country’s open source status in a multi-dimensional manner to permit country by country comparisons. During the coming twelve to eighteen months Sirius proposes to update selected indicators and build a new ranking based on OSS maturity in public services.
The Open Source Index
Red Hat Inc contracted with Georgia Institute of Technology to create a tool that could be used to compare and contrast countries based on their open source activity and environment. It was not intended to state what factors fostered or hindered open source but rather to provide a means of exploring causal relationships and building an evidence base.
The study began with an extensive review of the academic literature and professional and general media. From this and further analysis, a framework was developed to measure open source. The eventual outcome was the Open Source Index 2008, which is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States (CC-BY-SA) license.
Obtaining comparable data on every country was impossible and therefore only 75 of the almost 200 countries in the world are included in the Index (the omission of a country simply means that there were not enough data available). A country’s ascribed position, therefore, is not a world ranking but is relative only to those other countries listed in the Index.
Activity and Environment
Two sets of measures were adopted to build the Index. The first is based on Activity, that is the amount of open source actually happening. It tends to be made up of concrete factors such as existing open source and open standards policies, and the number of OSS users or producers. The second is derived from Environment factors and is more speculative. Even a country that does not currently have a high degree of OSS penetration may have a high number of internet users and information technology patents, which may indicate a favorable environment for OSS to take hold.
Each country in the Index is given summary scores for Activity and for Environment. These are made up of sub-scores derived from quantitative indicators drawn from the dimensions of Government, Industry, and Community/Education. Data are averaged to produce each country’s raw score, which is used to rank the countries included in the Index.
Why this study is important
The study shows that OSS is widespread and thriving. However, very little empirical evidence exists to explain why or how the OSS model succeeds in some places and not in others.
Countries that have the highest indicators of OSS penetration include Peru, Brazil, Argentina, France, and Mexico, which by 2001 all had policy measures pending. Efforts to establish alternatives to the use of proprietary software by government were also taken up in countries such as Germany, Spain, Italy, and Vietnam. The Open Source Index facilitates an objective comparison of these countries to investigate any common factors that link them.
The developers acknowledge that, as a first version, there is room for improvement with the Index. They hope that it will encourage more work in the field and that findings will be shared with others in the spirit of open source so as to build more successful and robust OSS environments.
For example, with further research it may be more meaningful in compiling the Index to ‘weight’ some measures as more important than others (government measures, say, over education measures). The Index, too, maintains a separation between the raw scores for Activity and for Environment. Depending on the research focus, it could be productive to analyze Activity/Environment or Activity + Environment.
interactive Open Source Index
Interactive maps have now been derived from the Index. An Activity map indicates the amount of current open source in the 75 countries listed, and an Environment map, based on factors such as numbers of internet users and information technology patents, indicates the fertile ground where OSS could take hold in the future.
Image credit: Spiral by Pete