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Check out this article from Business Week.

The author reminds us that software is a process not a product. Should all development with public funding be open source?

As we await to learn of the code review for, it’s an opportunity to learn why things went wrong and prevent further errors.

Furthermore, how can this be a moment, to consider what incentives and policies need to change to stimulate innovation in software development?
Looking forward to the discussion.


Laura Buguñá
Replied at 4:36 AM, 21 Oct 2013

Good point, an issues which keeps bouncing back as IT is an increasing part of the healthcare management systems and its effectivity monitoring. In my opinion, if the IT design, development and implementation are beig paid with public funds, it should be open code software or at least free licenses to use the software. This is the case for various IT platforms being built up with funding from the European Commission, such as the EPSOS project. How to maintain afterwards the software, once the funding is finished? Public funds from regions or govts shoudl cover a license to maintain and use the platforms.

Madhura Bhat
Replied at 4:40 PM, 21 Oct 2013

Thank you for this interesting discussion. If government developed programs could safely be made open source, particularly in health, there is tremendous potential for innovation. For example, the VA is the largest integrated health system in the country and spent billions of dollas developing an electronic health record called VistA. Not only is this free, given that it was developed from public resources, the government is actually supporting the creation of an opensource community to improve it (see link). The UK government has been impressed and are looking to develop a similar product (see link). It will be exciting to see what develops from these efforts.

Attached resources:

Amitendra Chauhan
Replied at 11:22 PM, 21 Oct 2013

Here is my experience from building open source solutions for healthcare sector. The health care sector can not afford building new softwares for same problem in different setups. Building new software is not only time consuming but also costly both in terms of money and lives that could have been saved in the meanwhile. While proprietary softwares address this issue but the cost of ownership (user licenses and support fees) is simply too high. Most of the donor-funded projects today have an underlying objective which is to build once, deploy many. Hence making more and more public funded projects open source is going to help save precious lives in the places where affordability is an issue.

However, new open source solutions face two major hurdles.
(1) Acceptability for New solution - The NGOs and governments usually want to see examples of successful implementations. Unless, the software is commissioned for end use, it takes time to enthuse NGOs and Governments to use an untested solution. So brand building / marketing is an important aspect one should not ignore when building an open source solution.

(2) The other worry of course is, 'who do I call if I need help or face issue after deployment?'. Open source softwares also need a helpline number like proprietary softwares. Though there may be an army of committers fixing known bugs and supporting deployments, a core managing group is required to provide direction and manage the code contributed by all the committers. I would think, regional governments and NGOs should try to fund the usage and enhancements for their specific needs but may not want to manage the software.

On the happier note, we are getting OpenLMIS implemented and deployed in two countries in Africa this month. Again, its open source and free, so feel free check it out..


Aaron VanDerlip
Replied at 8:47 AM, 24 Oct 2013

One of the main obstacles is the resource intensive bidding process which puts a premium on companies with political connections or that are large enough to absorb the cost of the process. A portion of was developed under an open source process, but the larger piece was secured by a well-connected contractor. One of the advantages of a well run open source project is that it allows freedom to choose who does the implementation work. Culturally larger contractors have little incentive to open source their code as ensuring vendor reliance is built into their business plan.

That being said, there is a significant amount of government software that is open source, see the following list of federal open source repositories

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