Open source values are something quite different from the value of open source software. I’m going to focus here on the value of employing open source software before getting to a discussion of embracing open source values in social enterprise.
Open source for social enterprise
The open source model of software development has a lot of value to offer a social enterprise, including:
- software products built on open standards
- service innovation around an open source products
- growth through collaboration between social enterprises, groups and individuals
- user focused leadership in terms of schedules for new features of the software
- community based support, promotion and innovation, and
- cost effectiveness by way of integration of existing Open source components.
Open source has a unique value for information technology focused social enterprises in particular and social entrepreneurs in general.
Open source for developers
Open source software is about free redistribution of the code that computer programmer’s write to produce the software we all use today. In the technical sense, open means to allow reuse of this code, which means your organisation can modify it. The agreed definition prevents you from claiming to be open if you discriminate against any person or group of persons, no matter what field of endeavour that they want to use computer code in, either commercial or charitable. Being open means no matter how the original code is distributed, used with other software or with other means of communication, you can’t go and add additional restrictions on reuse.
Open source for enterprise
Developing new software is suitable for is some, but your enterprise can also make use of open existing open source software. If you are interested in open source software for your business it is worth a visit to SourceForge which is a great location to download and develop free open source software.
Open source for charities
There is a lot of open source software for charities as well as businesses. The Open Source Initiative (OSI) actively promotes open source software by educating developers, decision makers, and users about the advantages of open source software and collaboration techniques. Their open source education page is a great place to start exploring the trade-offs of using open source software verses proprietary, non-free software.
An upshot of being a UK-based charity is that proprietary software is discounted. Charity Technology Exchange is a programme from which you are able to request donated technology products from their partners such as Microsoft, Symantec and Cisco. The products include operating system software and server software, security software and hardware products such as switches, routers, wireless equipment and firewalls. Here is their product catalogue.
Open data values
Modern software technologies possible and inexpensive to publish documents online. Making the information within these documents really accessible helps improve the transparency of your social enterprise and can encourage they type of social activities you support. Making accessible and easily reusable the raw data on which decisions are based and your decision-making process is necessary to allow customers to evaluate how well your social enterprise is working.
There are values about openness which particularly relate to the sharing of raw open data. These include making open data complete, your primary source of data, published in a timely manner, easy to access, in a reusable in a machine readable format, non-proprietary, free, easy to review, easy to discover and permanently available.