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Encouraging the Production of Open Source Software

Encouraging the Production of Open Source Software – Center for American Progress
The National Open Source Fellowships and the National Open Source Prizes are a Commitment to Encourage the Growth of Our Collective Commons
by John Irons and Carl Malamud
April 27, 2006
Open source software is a contribution by corporations and by individual citizens to strengthening our Internet infrastructure, growing our economy, and making our society a better place. Open source software becomes a fundamental building block in commercial software. For example, Microsoft Windows incorporates many important open source components in their popular operating system. Open source software also answers needs that are not met by commercial software producers: the creation of solutions that benefit the community at large but may not be ready yet for the marketplace. For example, “Wiki” software was used to create the Wikipedia, a collective reference work that rivals the encyclopedias produced in prior eras. Open source software facilitates learning and the dissemination of knowledge. Open source software is a public good and deserves public support.
What can the U.S. government do to further encourage this important phenomenon? The government can take steps to encourage the production of new software and to reward the best software that has been produced using two simple mechanisms:
1. A program for the awarding of National Open Source fellowships, available in equal numbers to students and to working professionals. Students who are awarded the fellowships would be able to cover the costs of their tuition and living expenses while producing a piece of valuable software that is available as open source. Likewise, a working programmer who was awarded such a fellowship could treat it much like a professor might treat a Guggenheim fellowship: an opportunity to take some time off from their job and devote full-time to the production of something they care deeply about and that benefits the community.
2. A juried National Open Source Prize to reward the open source software products that have most benefited our collective commons. The fellowships encourage people to produce new software; the Prizes recognize real results that have already benefited society.
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