CommitChange now hosts Fika for Social Good events in the MidWest, an informal series of discussions for nonprofit leaders and tech professionals. Our most recent discussion was led by open source advocate and prpl Foundation community manager Eric Schultz.
At our most recent fika, Eric Schultz discussed some of the basics of open source with local nonprofit leaders along with ways that open source can benefit nonprofits. He explained how the four freedoms of open source, the right to use software, the right to study how its made, the right to modify it, and the right to share changes with other people, feed into what should make open source attractive to nonprofit users.
For Eric, the benefits of open source in the nonprofit community can be broken down into:
- Open source has the potential to give nonprofits control over the software they're using.
- With open source, users don't have to update their software if a specific version of an operating system or program suits their workflow.
- Because support isn't restricted for open source software, users can potentially hire an independent entity (a software developer or firm) to support older versions of operating systems or programs that they need for their work.
- With open source, there is the potential to collaborate and improve on current systems. For as little as a few hours of work, or a few hundred dollars, a nonprofit could hire a developer to create software or an app that meets one of their needs. (Although the price could be much higher for more complicated issues.) Then, the software could be offered to other organizations with similar issues and to the broader open source community to implement into other systems or improve upon.
- Because there is more freedom to work with an open source project's code and make improvements, open source can result in support to the local community; an organization can hire someone local to maintain and support the software instead of relying on a software corporation's support team, which may have competing interests in supporting the software and might not take an issue seriously unless it's being experienced by thousands, or tens of thousands, of their users.
Eric Schultz is an open source expert and Community Manager for the prpl Foundation, an open source, community-driven consortium with a focus on enabling the security and interoperability of embedded devices.