In Giving Back, Brazil Sets a Good Open Source Example
Recently, we've covered the many debates going on surrounding whether organizations that use open source software are properly giving back to the development communities that they benefit from. According to some observers, the disparity between using and contributing doesn't matter, while others feel strongly that organizations that use open source software should help develop it or invest in development. On this topic, Simon Phipps has an interesting post up on the Brazilian government's decision to invest in OpenOffice and LibreOffice, based on its usage.
According to Phipps:
"During the meeting in Brazil, I called for developers to start work on the code-base now, regardless of their eventual expectations of which of the two open source projects they will join, so that their skills and their familiarity with the code are developed…Also during the presentation, Jomar Silva ( a key voice in the document standards community) announced that he had just met with representatives of the Brazilian government and representatives of both the Apache (Jomar Silva) and TDF (Olivier Hallot) communities had signed a letter of intent with the government that Brazil should start engaging directly with the office suite they depend on, rather than just consuming the code. This growth in the developer base seems to me to be exactly the sort of news we all need at the moment."
This isn't the first time that a government has made a commitment to help advance open source projects, but it's also true that many projects see the most significant contributions come from corporations. The Linux kernel, for example, gets its most significant contributions from companies such as Red Hat, IBM and Intel. Brazil's commitment to LibreOffice and OpenOffice reflects an ecumenical stance, too. Brazilian officials appear to have taken a fair look at what they actually use, and have announced intent to give back.
On the topic of giving back, Phipps--who knows a thing or two about open source--offers a nice summary:
"Open source software may come without a price ticket for the license, but its chief value is the freedom it delivers. If you're not paying some other company for a subscription, you should consider asking your own developers to explore ways to contribute."