Humanitarian Free and Open Source Software

The HFOSS Ecosystem for Sustainability

Despite the best of intentions, volunteerism will not easily deliver to standards and best practices in a sustainable and consistent way. What we often find is that there is a peak in capacity in HFOSS projects during a disaster response event, but it soon tapers away, leaving solutions that are sometimes not being maintained actively. There is also an imbalance in the different tasks required from development, documentation, quality assurance, and training based on available volunteer capacity. There needs to be an economic model to sustain a core group of people around the deployed solution to cater to its stability, usability, documentation, and training.

However, at the same time, it is rather inappropriate to be seeking business opportunities in the midst of a disaster response, where most private and public institutions are found donating goods and services. This is why most of the organizations that work in humanitarian response are non-profits, NGOs, and government funded groups. Some of the HFOSS projects themselves are funded non-profits, such as InSTEDD and Ushahidi, and they sustain core teams for disaster response. However, even they cannot manage all events and there needs to be a transition to other providers, especially in building up local capacity for support. Ushahidi, for example, transitioned the maintenance of the Haiti Ushahidi deployment to a private company based in Haiti.

Thus, business and social entrepreneurship opportunities lie in pre-disaster and post-disaster events, when the efforts of volunteer and non-profit organizations are insufficient to maintain tailored solutions for either the recovery or preparedness phases of disaster response.

A Proposed Public-Private Partnership Model for HFOSS Projects

An effective economic model has still to evolve that sees non-profits, for-profits, corporate social responsibility programs, and volunteers all working towards a common goal in delivering HFOSS solutions. A business model the author would like to propose for this domain is that of an HFOSS project governed by a funded, central non-profit organization with a paid core team to manage contributions and assure the quality of the core product releases. This same team would be funded for disaster response efforts. However, once the initial support is provided, a suitable transition needs to be made, preferably to a local for-profit or non-profit organization that will maintain the solution in the long term. A certification and corporate sponsorship program can in turn help maintain the essential tenets of quality and fund the core non-profit for its maintenance activities.

Conclusion

Delivering global public goods in the form of free and open source products has become a popular norm in the humanitarian response domain. HFOSS projects and the communities that surround them have become the natural homes for the “software engineers without borders” of the world. However, these projects need further growth to assure the sustainability and quality of products being deployed due to the mission-critical nature of the applications and their requirements for a high degree of quality, especially aligned to stability, fault-tolerance, and usability. One approach to delivering sustainability can be through a healthy economic ecosystem around an HFOSS project that involves funded non-profits, for-profits, corporate social responsibility programs, and volunteers working together to bring efficiencies to the disaster response efforts that will help save lives and alleviate human suffering.

This article was written by Chamindra de Silva and is one of several published in the December 2010 issue of the Open Source Business Resource. It is made available under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Related Posts

Top 10 upcoming Android tablets Contrary to popular belief, the iPad 2 isn’t the only tablet computer in the world. Yes, it is rather wonderful, and the game support is staggering, b...
Google Starts Censoring BitTorrent, RapidShare and More It’s taken a while, but Google has finally caved in to pressure from the entertainment industries including the MPAA and RIAA. The search engine now a...
Wikileaks: Lessons For Consumer Privacy The website Wikileaks recently published hundreds of thousands of confidential State Department cables. These communications apparently reveal the de...
VLC developer takes a stand against DRM enforcement in Apple’s App Store Rémi Denis-Courmont is one of the primary developers of the VLC media player, which is free software and distributed under the GPL. Earlier this week...
Supreme Court to Decide Standard for Proving Invalidity of a Patent Today the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Microsoft’s appeal in a case that could make it easier to invalidate a patent. If successful, Microsoft...
Who’s watching you? Ahead of terrorist attacks, becoming bankrupt and being attacked in their homes, people are more worried about their online privacy being violated and...

We Recommend These Vendors and Free Offers

ContainerizeThis 2016 is a free, 2-day conference for all things containers and big data. Featured, will be presentations and free, hands-on workshops. Learn more at ContainerizeThis.com

Launch an SSD VPS in Europe, USA, Asia & Australia on Vultr's KVM-based Cloud platform starting at $5:00/month (15 GB SSD, 768 MB of RAM).

Deploy an SSD Cloud server in 55 seconds on DigitalOcean. Built for developers and starting at $5:00/month (20 GB SSD, 512 MB of RAM).

Want to become an expert ethical hacker and penetration tester? Request your free video training course of Online Penetration Testing and Ethical Hacking

Whether you're new to Linux or are a Linux guru, you can learn a lot more about the Linux kernel by requesting your free ebook of Linux Kernel In A Nutshell.


One Comment

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Humanitarian Free and Open Source Software -- Topsy.com

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*