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Research Finds Tech Companies Should Fund Open Source Projects

While overall participation in open source declined in 2020, 63% of those who actively participated reported an increase in their activity, according to

open source

While overall participation in open source declined in 2020, 63% of those who actively participated reported an increase in their activity, according to DigitalOcean’s Currents Open Source report. The report also noted nearly 47% of developers believe tech companies should fund payment for their contributions, according to a new DigitalOcean survey.

The new report, which surveyed CXOs, developers and open source enthusiasts on the latest trends in technology, highlights economic and social impacts behind open source communities. The survey also explored whether the core tenets of open source–”free” and “open”–still hold today.

Participation trends differed based on geographic region and age. APAC, including India, had the largest increase in overall participation at 51% of respondents, while developers in the US (44%), UK (43%), and Canada (42%) said their participation remained unchanged in light of the pandemic, according to the report.

“There’s no denying that technology played a major role in 2020. However, what we found most inspiring was how the individuals and community behind the code rose to the occasion,” said Raman Sharma, vice president of product and programs marketing at DigitalOcean.

“Our survey showed that developers dug deeper into the open source community, participating more actively and contributing to the causes that mattered to them most,” he said.

How pandemic impacted open source projects

The pandemic impacted the types of projects the open source community was involved in over the course of 2020. The report also found that respondents reported an increased focus on mental health (62% overall), inclusivity (57% overall), networking to help others find new jobs (51% overall), and mentoring to help others learn (50% overall).

For example, 29% are helping community members learn and develop their skills, while 17% are contributing to mission-oriented projects, such as ones focused on pandemic relief or social issues.

The report highlighted that APAC, which was hit hard by natural disasters including the Australian bush fires, flash flooding in Indonesia, and a cyclone in India and Bangladesh, reported significantly higher increases in the number of projects focused on environmental issues.

Meanwhile, due to the US presidential election, respondents reported a greater increase in projects related to political issues than any other location, the report said.

Free software, but funding is needed

Further, 54% said they feel that individuals should be paid for their work with open source but only 14% of respondents currently are paid for their open source contributions, according to the report.

However, developers in different age ranges vary on whether individuals should be paid for their contributions to open source, 60% between the ages of 18-25 being overly in favor, while only 34% of those above 55 years of age agreed.

Also, nearly half of respondents (47%) think tech companies should fund the payment of open source contributions, while a quarter (25%) thought project owners or individuals should pay, as per the report.

Community inclusivity and code restrictions

The survey found 59% of respondents believe open source is inclusive to people of all demographics, experience levels, and locations. However, respondents who are women, non-binary, or caregivers reported lower levels of inclusivity.

Nonetheless, the report said, 62% of men agreed or strongly agree that the community is inclusive, versus only 46% of women and 42% of non-binary respondents feeling that way. Fifty-four percent of caregivers agreed or strongly agree that the community is inclusive versus 64% of non-caregivers, according to the report.

While most individuals said they were against allowing restrictions for the use of open source code (47%), more than half of respondents wanted to allow restrictions (34%) or were undecided (19%).

Open source software’s growing popularity is due in part to its ability to give companies accelerated time-to-market and provide more focus on core competencies for development teams. However, a continuous, automated open source management program is the best way to proactively monitor code churn throughout the development process and address any identified security and compliance issues—all while embracing open source for the strategic advantages it provides.

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