What on Earth is the Open Source World Map For?

In the early days of Microsoft's FUD, one of its favourite weapons was the commissioned research report, for example comparing TCO of Windows and GNU/Linux. Amazingly, every one of those reports came out favourable to Microsoft, which was pretty astonishing – so astonishing, in fact, that nobody paid the blindest bit of notice to the things.

Sadly, as open source companies gained some VC dosh, one or two of them thought that they way to spend it was by “fighting back” against Microsoft and commissioning research reports which, by another of those amazing coincidences, always showed that open source was better than proprietary offerings. Of course, people were similarly sceptical of these, too. Happily, things seem to be moving on, with slightly more useful work starting to appear.

Here, for example, is the Open Source World Map:

This study shows that open source is widespread and thriving. Still, very little empirical evidence exists for documenting and explaining why or how the open source model works. Scholars have examined the adoption of open source by national governments, via policy mechanism/regulatory approaches, but there is still not enough data showing us why open source succeeds in some places and not in others.

By 2001, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, France, and Mexico all had pending policy measures pending at the national level involving open source software. Other national and local-level efforts were also taken up in such countries as Germany, Spain, Italy, and Vietnam to establish official alternatives to the use of closed, proprietary software by government. The Open Source Index facilitates the objective comparison of those countries, which have the highest indicators of open source penetration, and whether common factors link those countries together.

OK, its statement that “open source is widespread and thriving” is pretty meaningless: “widespread and thriving” compared to what – whalebone corsets? And the map itself is also pretty useless, with some regions marked “high”, and others “low” in terms of open source “activity” or “environment”. In particular, the rankings seem completely off: the UK is in sixth place for activity, and eighth place for environment, which are hopelessly optimistic given the pathetic reality of the government's response here.

However, the Open Source World Map does have one inestimable value: it provides the data behind the map as a spreadsheet, and there's plenty of interesting material there for others to use. This kind of re-use – so true to the spirit of open source – really shows the way forward rather better than the map itself.

Follow me on Twitter @glynmoody.


Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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