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Announcing the Release of the State of Open Source in the Global South Report

Tuesday, July 2, 2024 - 09:25 by Thabang Mashologu

At the Eclipse Foundation, we believe in empowering developers to harness the power of technology to drive positive change in the world. Today, we are excited to announce the release of the State of Open Source in the Global South report. Based on the results of in-depth interviews and a comprehensive survey, the report highlights the pivotal role of open source software in fostering innovation, economic growth, and societal development in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

From 14 May to 28 May, we reached out to 423 software developers and policymakers from the Global South to explore their attitudes and opinions on open source, amplifying the voices of these essential and influential communities. The survey respondents come from 18 countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Morocco, Nigeria, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, and Vietnam. These countries were selected due to their rapidly growing developer communities, as highlighted in previous research like the latest GitHub State of the Octoverse report.

Far from being mere consumers of OSS, developers in LMICs are actively shaping the future of open source projects. We discovered that 77% of respondents use open source software, with 37% contributing to open source projects, 28% serving as maintainers, and 22% creating their own new projects. This demonstrates the significant capacity and impact of Global South developers in driving and advancing OSS projects.

The survey results also highlight where developers find broader benefits in open source participation, including improved educational opportunities, a stronger workforce, and increased entrepreneurship and capacity for innovation. Respondents noted that the positive impacts of open source extend beyond software development, contributing to economic growth, fostering innovation, and empowering women through unrestricted skills development and career building.

However, our research indicates that achieving these outcomes will also require concerted efforts from governments, donors, NGOs, open source groups, foundations, and entrepreneurs. By collaborating, these stakeholders can provide the necessary infrastructure, mentorship, training, funding, and job opportunities to support the developer talent in the Global South, thereby fostering future economic growth and innovation.

The usage numbers we discovered are strong, but how can we continue to drive open source adoption in the LMICs? Respondents said that implementing security best practices, providing opportunities for career growth, and delivering good documentation are the top factors for driving the use of open source technologies.

Here is a sampling of the other interesting findings from our research:

  • A majority of developers (59%) expect open source to significantly drive their countries' economic growth over the next decade. Further, over half (52%) view open source participation as a means for their nations to contribute to global innovation. 
  • A significant majority (78%) view open source as crucial for advancing their personal goals, while 73% consider it very important to their work or studies, underscoring the importance of open source in the lives of developers. 
  • An overwhelming 86% of participants agreed that open source participation enables people from their countries to contribute to global innovation, fostering international collaboration and knowledge exchange. 

These findings underscore the transformative potential of open source software in driving innovation and economic growth in the Global South. By harnessing the power of open source, we can create more inclusive and sustainable development opportunities worldwide. Our report also includes recommendations for developers, policymakers, and business leaders to maximise the potential of OSS development in LMICs. We encourage you to read the complete State of Open Source in the Global South report to gain deeper insights into this groundbreaking research.

We extend our heartfelt thanks to all the survey participants for generously sharing their perspectives on open source in their countries. A special thank you to the experts who contributed their insights and supported the research process: Abubakar Siddiq Ango, Samson Goddy, Noopur Gupta, Ruth Ikegah, Ritu Kumar Mishra, Azhar Malik, Maneo Mapharisa, Ogheneyoma Okobiah, Otavio Santana, and Tuntufye Ntaukira.

Together, we can foster a vibrant, diverse, and global open source community that drives positive change and innovation. Thank you for being a part of this journey.