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Open Source development and government policy : Models to support the migration to and development of applications in an Open Source environment

Overview

The EC now supports IST projects that generate or use an OS solution and has funded a series of projects (eg CALIBRE) and reports (eg FLOSS, FLOSSPOLS) which have examined the requirements for resources to create and support open source (OS) applications in a EU context.

Napier University has participated in several such projects including SmartGov, HANDS and eRepresentative. At this level there seems to be a low level of awareness of the EC-funded work and how to exploit the FLOSS process. The result is that there is little perceived commitment to the wider FLOSS community, nor a perceived benefit to customer organisations from using FLOSS applications beyond possible savings in license fees.

The project will work to understand the reasons behind this observation, contrasting the European and North American experiences. The focus will be on the business and organisational motivations to support and application, not on the factors that lead to developers participating in individual projects.

This project will establish the factors involved, investigate what practical support is available that projects could take advantage of and to develop a model that can be used by European-funded OSS IST projects such as HANDS.

Aims of the project

The idea for this research arose from the author's previous experiences as a developer in different open-source projects and his current involvement the HANDS project and discussion with colleagues who have been involved in other EC-funded projects with an OSS component.

The main difficulty foreseen is that some European FLOSS projects might not have an English-language presence and therefore might be missed. Use of index sites should mitigate the risk. Obtaining responses to surveys can be difficult.

Deliverables

The deliverable of the project will be a model to assist migration and development based on a case study of the EU-funded HANDS project. It will consider the factors involved in the decision to use OSS, supplemented by a detailed survey of the experiences of FLOSS projects from the perspective of the project teams and other stakeholders, with recommendations on future best practise in a European context, possibly tested using an Action Research Methodology.

The project will include a literature review (using primary documents whre possible), a review of European-based FLOSS tools and interviews with stakeholders in open-source projects – both existing and failed projects will be considered.

The project is being undertaken in collaboration with Napier University’s International Teledemocracy Centre (ITC) and the HANDS project team

Research Questions

  1. What factors affect the success of OSS applications in a European context?
  2. What factors influence the migration an application from closed to open source?

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