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World Economic Forum CTO backs open source technology to change the world

14 Feb 2013

Open source software can play a key role in helping organisations and governments solve major challenges and change the world, according to the chief technology officer of the World Economic Forum, Brian Behlendorf.

Behlendorf, who also serves on the board at the Mozilla Foundation, said the collaborative nature of open source technology means it is ideal for tackling vital issues, especially when compared to propriety systems.

"Many crises are not about software problems but are information problems and the collection, distribution and analysis of that data, so good software can make a difference," he said, speaking at the WSO2 conference in London attended by V3.

"Organisations that are at the frontline of tackling these problems have been underserved by software vendors in the past and not been savvy about using software, instead just seeing it as a necessary evil."

Behlendorf went on to tout some examples of how open source software was helping in numerous areas such as improving third-world literacy and tackling health and human rights issues through projects such as Literacy Bridge, OpenMRS and Martus.

He went on to say that awareness of the benefits open source offers over proprietary software usually used by organisations and government was slowly growing, and the community should move to try and boost this uptake.

"Because open source is based on common platforms you can switch vendors without changing the underlying technology. Governments and NGOs think things have to be done be particular vendors and if they want to change they have to change the entire stack," he said.

"We have to get them out of that thinking and understand about common platforms and code reuse and redevelopment. This is all rather new to them, but it is starting to take hold."

The UK government has reaffirmed commitments to make more use of open source technologies in order to improve ICT use in the public sector and deliver cost savings.

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Dan Worth

Dan Worth is the news editor for V3 having first joined the site as a reporter in November 2009. He specialises in a raft of areas including fixed and mobile telecoms, data protection, social media and government IT. Before joining V3 Dan covered communications technology, data handling and resilience in the emergency services sector on the BAPCO Journal

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