Open-Source and Non-Profit Sector

[via Ashutosh and Tapan] Jonathan Peizer writes about realising the promise of open-source software and the non-profit sector:

The fundamental question to be answered is how one underwrites and sustains the development and continued maintenance of mission critical Open Source applications designed specifically for the non-profit sector? Applications for monitoring, case management, customer relationship management, advocacy, knowledge management, web publishing, analytics, etc. that support the unique missions of NGO’s. There are literally millions of non-profits all over the world with software application needs. How will Open Source assist in the development, implementation and maintenance of low cost, easily maintainable core applications that meet these needs? And how will these be underwritten long term?

The promise of the Open Source methodology satisfying these needs will not be met by a few narrowly subsidized initiatives. It will require some dedicated strategically defined public support over a number of years to develop a social source community and do the following:

  • Define the core mission critical apps that most NGO’s need.

  • Subsidize the base development of the core applications or at least open standards around these applications including the necessary documentation and training needed to implement them successfully.

  • Develop a programmer community around these applications along with some software development institutions that employ at least a few project leaders and senior developers to coordinate activities.

  • Tie them closely to the nascent non-profit technology support community that has arisen over the last few years so that the applications, once developed, can be both delivered and supported over the long term.

  • Develop a cost structure that is not prohibitively expensive for NGO’s but that supports continued maintenance and development of the core applications.

    This will not happen without a proactive, well thought out strategy by a collaborative of progressive funders, developers and technology service providers. The dynamics that underwrite the long term maintenance and costs of mass market Open Source applications simply don’t exist for the non-profit sector because they are not underwritten in the same way they are for the commercial environment.

  • One of the suggestions made by Jonathan is for a Social SourceForge, which acts as a:

    1) A home base for development activities designed to meet a broad base of prioritized, mission focused application needs.

    2) A place to actively foster a mission focused development community.

    3) A documentation and training material depository for all applications on Social SourceForge.

    4) The arbiter of open standards for the NGO sector across application platforms.

    5) A catalyst spawning individual development efforts conforming to standards.

    6) A place where individual developers come if they wish to interact with a vibrant mission focused developer community for support.

    Published by

    Rajesh Jain

    An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.