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A research and innovation perspective on Free and Open Source Software (FOSS)

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My talk at the Southern African Research and Innovation Management Association (SARIMA) conference in Durban, 2011 06 08

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A research and innovation perspective on Free and Open Source Software (FOSS)

  1. 1. A research and innovation perspective on Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) Prof Derek W. Keats Deputy Vice Chancellor (Knowledge & Information Management) The University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg http://kim.wits.ac.za [email_address]
  2. 2. Freedom 1 and Freedom 3 require the source code The four freedoms of Free Software Open Source Free and Software (F OS S) Free
  3. 3. Use it however you like Install a copy on more than one computer Give or sell copies to other people Just take some software and.... To understand what freedom means in the software context... http://www.flickr.com/photos/unnamed/47093936 BY-SA
  4. 4. Use it however you like Install a copy on more than one computer Give or sell copies to other people Study the source code and learn from it Adapt the source code to anything you want Give copies of your modifications to friends & colleagues Just take some software and.... Without asking or paying for permission
  5. 5. Use it however you like Install a copy on more than one computer Give or sell copies to other people Study the source code and learn from it Adapt the source code to anything you want Give copies of your modifications to friends & colleagues Respected member of a global community More marketable as a software engineer Just take some software and.... Free software Improved knowledge & skills You CEO of an innovative ground-breaking company
  6. 6. Use it however you like Install a copy on more than one computer Give or sell copies to other people Study the source code and learn from it Adapt the source code to anything you want Give copies of your modifications to friends & colleagues Respected member of a global community Facing in a lawsuit More marketable as a software engineer Criminal record Just take some software and.... Proprietary software Free software Improved knowledge & skills You Cease and desist order You Potential imprisonment CEO of an innovative ground-breaking company
  7. 7. Image adapted from Wikipedia
  8. 8. Image adapted from Wikipedia The two layers of FOSS space in the operating of computing devices
  9. 9. Image from Wikipedia There are relatively few of them, even with all the variations There are many of them, and a lot more room for creativity Image adapted from Wikipedia
  10. 10. FOSS Proprietary FOSS Proprietary Image adapted from Wikipedia
  11. 11. Scarcity Abundance Proprietary software Free software The scarcity is entirely artificially maintained
  12. 12. Scarcity Abundance Knowledge -- comparison modeled after Chris Anderson, Free: The Future of a Radical Price Protected, controlled, secret Shared, freely available, no secrets Proprietary software Free software
  13. 13. License F OS S Software Licenses Disclaimer: IANAL
  14. 14. I Am Not A Lawyer F OS S Software Licenses Disclaimer: IANAL License legal instrument – usually making use of contract law – governing the usage or redistribution of software Underpinned by Copyright
  15. 15. Copyright All rights reserved Proprietary Software Some rights reserved Free and Open Source Software
  16. 16. Derivative work CopyLeft requirement Derivative works must share the same conditions No CopyLeft requirement Derivative works do not have to share the same conditions Applies at distribution
  17. 17. Software that contains your core business model , and therefore embodies your competitive advantage in the market place Software that does not contain your core business model , and is not a major component of your competitive advantage in the market place FOSS Don't distribute Bruce Perens Differentiating software Non-differentiating software
  18. 18. Economic perspective
  19. 19. Compete on quality Maximum monopoly price Controlled, legislated economies oligopolies cartels Gratis Price Marginal cost of production Compete on price Scarcity
  20. 20. The marginal cost of production for software is zero.
  21. 21. Compete on quality Maximum monopoly price Controlled, legislated economies oligopolies cartels Gratis Price Marginal cost of production Compete on price Counterfeit market is guaranteed Profit Scarcity
  22. 22. In a competitive economy, prices decrease to just above the marginal cost of production
  23. 23. Marginal cost of production Compete on quality Maximum monopoly price Controlled, legislated economies oligopolies cartels Gratis Price Co-opetition Compete on price Capitalist, competitive economies Profit Scarcity Services revenue stream , bartering, shared costs FOSS
  24. 24. users can be a major source of innovation Eric von Hippel, Professor & Head of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Group at the MIT Sloan School of Management
  25. 25. Barriers to innovation The Internet – a radical decentralisation of innovation Yochai Benkler, Professor of Law at Harvard at the eG8 Forum on May 26th
  26. 26. Barriers to innovation Successful innovation Starting point Knowledge Permission Cost
  27. 27. Barriers to innovation Successful innovation Starting point No such thing as scratch
  28. 28. No such thing as scratch Operating systems Compilers Programming languages Core applications Databases Webserver Frameworks Digital object store Libraries Version management Scalability tools Load balance Scripting languages Virtualisation Testing eBusiness tools Graphics tools Communications tools Integrated development environments (IDE) Video production Audio production Office suites Design Web browsers CRM Accounting ERP
  29. 29. Barriers to innovation Successful innovation Starting point Knowledge Software as knowledge expressed
  30. 30. Knowledge
  31. 31. Knowledge
  32. 32. Knowledge
  33. 33. Barriers to innovation Starting point Knowledge Permission Successful innovation
  34. 34. Every permission may also have a cost Permissions Every permission is a barrier Difficult to determine what permissions you need at the start <ul><ul><li>or what it will cost to acquire them </li></ul></ul>Please sir, I want to license two more CPUs Oracle Twist Proprietary licenses severely limit permissions STOP Even without the cost factor, the permissions alone can be enough to reduce the likelihood of success in a start-up
  35. 35. Permissions Every permission is a barrier NIPMO take note!
  36. 36. Barriers to innovation Starting point Knowledge Permission Cost Successful innovation
  37. 37. Cost Start-up costs <ul>Scaling out costs </ul>Lock-in costs Malleability costs Abandonment costs Uncertainty barrier
  38. 38. Barriers to innovation Successful innovation Starting point Knowledge Permission Cost
  39. 39. A wealth-creation perspective
  40. 40. Some recent major software innovations Started poor University students 1995 Mark Zuckerberg Larry Page and Sergey Brin
  41. 41. Some recent major software innovations Started poor University students Without FOSS they would not have done it All acknowledge both the code and its contained knowledge 1995 Mark Zuckerberg Larry Page and Sergey Brin
  42. 42. Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bush, image from Wikipedia I just had to take the hypertext idea and connect it to the Transmission Control Protocol and domain name system ideas and — ta-da! — the World Wide Web Sir Tim Berners-Lee and the first webserver from Wikipedia When core things are free and open, there are no barriers to innovation. When Bob Khan and I created TCP/IP and a bunch of us built a platform for internetworking, we did not patent the technologies used. We set TCP/IP free. Had we not done so, it is doubtful if the Internet as we know it today would have come into being. The freedom given by Cerf and Khan, and Berners-Lee, together with Free Software made it possible. The original Google servers, from Wikipedia
  43. 43. Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bush, image from Wikipedia I just had to take the hypertext idea and connect it to the Transmission Control Protocol and domain name system ideas and — ta-da! — the World Wide Web Sir Tim Berners-Lee and the first webserver from Wikipedia When core things are free and open, there are no barriers to innovation. When Bob Khan and I created TCP/IP and a bunch of us built a platform for internetworking, we did not patent the technologies used. We set TCP/IP free. Had we not done so, it is doubtful if the Internet as we know it today would have come into being. The freedom given by Cerf and Khan, and Berners-Lee, together with Free Software made it possible. The original Google servers, from Wikipedia
  44. 44. Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bush, image from Wikipedia I just had to take the hypertext idea and connect it to the Transmission Control Protocol and domain name system ideas and — ta-da! — the World Wide Web Sir Tim Berners-Lee and the first webserver from Wikipedia When core things are free and open, there are no barriers to innovation. When Bob Khan and I created TCP/IP and a bunch of us built a platform for internetworking, we did not patent the technologies used. We set TCP/IP free. Had we not done so, it is doubtful if the Internet as we know it today would have come into being. The freedom given by Cerf and Khan, and Berners-Lee, together with Free Software made it possible. The original Google servers, from Wikipedia
  45. 45. Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bush, image from Wikipedia I just had to take the hypertext idea and connect it to the Transmission Control Protocol and domain name system ideas and — ta-da! — the World Wide Web Sir Tim Berners-Lee and the first webserver from Wikipedia When core things are free and open, there are no barriers to innovation. When Bob Khan and I created TCP/IP and a bunch of us built a platform for internetworking, we did not patent the technologies used. We set TCP/IP free. Had we not done so, it is doubtful if the Internet as we know it today would have come into being. The freedom given by Cerf and Khan, and Berners-Lee, together with Free Software made it possible. The original Google servers, from Wikipedia Layers of innovation built on Freedom
  46. 46. Software in research / innovation Software that is used or created in research projects is often FOSS From what I have seen, the IP regulations make no provision for FOSS Or at least it is not obvious how one deals with FOSS in research
  47. 47. Project software FOSS FOSS FOSS FOSS Permission License
  48. 48. Does this only apply to software?
  49. 49. May be consumed by one consumer without preventing simultaneous consumption by others Consumption by one consumer prevents simultaneous consump-tion by other consumers
  50. 50. Publicly funded science?
  51. 51. Africa produces 8.2 scientific research papers per million people The world produces 103 scientific research papers per million people The USA produces 690 and Canada 723 scientific research papers per million people
  52. 52. Territory size shows the proportion of the number of extra scientific papers that were published in 2001 compared with 1990, whose authors work there. Source: worldmapper.com
  53. 53. Territory size shows the proportion of the number of extra scientific papers that were published in 2001 compared with 1990, whose authors work there. Source: worldmapper.com Should we catalyze the growth of science in Africa? ...or make it harder? Publicly funded science?
  54. 54. The output of scientific research that is published in ways that are only accessible to some people, or that is locked up in the newly altered form of patents that are designed to withhold disclosure and lengthen monopoly privileges. Secret science
  55. 55. The output of scientific research that is published in ways that are only accessible to some people, or that is locked up in the newly altered form of patents that are designed to withhold disclosure and lengthen monopoly privileges. Secret science Some secret science is probably necessary ... … but that doesn't mean all science should be secret
  56. 56. Free science Research carried out for the public good (including knowledge growth), that is published in ways that are accessible to anyone with a networked computing device, and that can be freely built upon to create innovations that contribute to both public and private good.
  57. 57. Epilogue There are always barriers to innovation. The more barriers you create, the less innovation you will get. Every permission is a barrier. Secret science and patents nouveau are not the only way to foster innovation. Should we look carefully how public science can best serve the public good ? Currently, we implicitly assume knowledge to be rivalrous, and our laws and policies are based on that implicit assumption.
  58. 58. Epilogue There are always barriers to innovation. The more barriers you create, the less innovation you will get. Every permission is a barrier. Secret science and patents nouveau are not the only way to foster innovation. Should we look carefully how public science can best serve the public good ? Currently, we implicitly assume knowledge to be rivalrous, and our laws and policies are based on that implicit assumption. This entrenches 20th Century thinking and business models, and is a major impediment to 21st Century innovation.
  59. 59. Epilogue An opportunity for leadership? There are always barriers to innovation. The more barriers you create, the less innovation you will get. Every permission is a barrier. Secret science and patents nouveau are not the only way to foster innovation. Should we look carefully how public science can best serve the public good ? Currently, we implicitly assume knowledge to be rivalrous, and our laws and policies are based on that implicit assumption. This entrenches 20th Century thinking and business models, and is a major impediment to 21st Century innovation. FOSS – Free and Open Source Science
  60. 60. In these times, the hardest task for social or political activists is to find a way to get people to wonder again about what we all believe is true. The challenge is to sow doubt. Lawrence Lessig wonder again about what we all believe is true
  61. 61. YING YANG Free and Open Science Secret Science But how ?
  62. 62. YING YANG Who is looking after the interests of those not here yet? Not us! Should we be? Free and Open Science Secret Science But how ?
  63. 63. Attribution file: http://www.dkeats.com/usrfiles/users/ 1563080430/attribution/attrib.txt With public funds No secret science

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