Full title: PROMISES AND PITFALLS OF OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE BUSINESS IN FOSTERING SUSTAINABILITY IN ICT4D PROJECTS
While the intention of development cooperation projects is long term impact and capacity development of developing countries, the projects often face a significant challenge in ensuring the continuity of action after the closing of the project. Projects involving information and communication technology (ICT) are no exception and usually require a sustainable source of technology, knowledge and other resources to have the desired impact. One way to foster the sustainability of ICT for development (ICT4D) projects is to rely on public private partnerships (PPPs), arrangements where public and private organizations join together to provide products and/or services, sharing the related costs and rewards. Open source software (OSS) is licensed with a particular licensing model that allows free access, use, and modification of the software and therefore enables collaborative development methods and open business models. Public private partnerships using open source software and open business models seem to provide an attractive configuration for sustainable ICT4D projects, but there is little research on evidence of the feasibility of such endeavours.
This study seeks to understand both conceptual foundations and practical realities of fostering the sustainability of ICT4D projects by means of open business and open source software in the context of public private partnerships. The author studied the phenomenon by means of longitudal case study in a capacity development project with a goal to increase the viability of agricultural cooperatives by providing information systems for the cooperative management. The project developed a software product, which was licenced with an open source license in order to increase its adoption by cooperatives, and to build a public private partnership based network with local software entrepreneurs. The experiences from the project suggest that while the promises of open source software and open business based public private partnerships are attractive, in practise such enterprises in development context are prone to severe challenges. Based on conceptual studies and case study data, a framework with academic and practical dimensions is constructed on the use of open source software and open business in fostering sustainability of ICT4D projects.
The article begins with an overview of research on the issue of sustainability in ICT4D projects, and on the role of public private partnerships in addressing that issue; an introduction to open source software and related open business models; and the recent discourse on business ecosystems. Next, the project acting as the case study subject is presented, the process of fostering sustainability with open source and open business is explained in detail, and the project outcomes are reviewed. The experiences from the project are reflected against relevant academic discourses on the subject matter and a conceptual framework is constructed as a summary. Finally, contributions for research and practise are discussed.
Author: Jussi Nissilä