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Matt Barker, President & Co-Founder, Jetstack Ltd and OpenUK Entrepreneur in Residence

State of Open: The UK in 2021

Phase Two: “UK Adoption”

The UK’s journey with open source technology has evolved into a thriving ecosystem, catalysed by pioneers embracing cloud, DevOps practices and open technology. Government commitment, exemplified by GOV.UK, propelled the nation to a world-leading position. Global adoption of open technology has resulted in numerous billion-dollar businesses, uniquely positioning the UK to build a global tech platform. As Entrepreneur in Residence for OpenUK, Matt’s focus is on breaking barriers, building skills, and fostering inclusivity to support open tech founders. The vision is to create more jobs, wealth, and efficient services, marking the UK’s impactful role in the open tech revolution.

Building UK open source business community
Matt Barker, President & Co-Founder, Jetstack Ltd and OpenUK Entrepreneur in Residence

It was only 10 years ago that I was looking to countries on the continent to learn from their innovation in adopting and using open source software. Large-scale deployments of linux by the Gendarmes in France, and the adoption of Open Office in Munich were inspirational to someone like me who had firmly decided that open source held the power to deliver better software, and better outcomes for users and businesses.

Although there were some admirable efforts, sadly in the UK we didn’t have the same leading examples. Generally, I felt we were being held back by collective ‘lock-in’ to doing things the way we always had done. On trying to sell the value of open source, I was always met with bemused answers like ‘surely if the code is open it makes it insecure’ or ‘try getting an open source licence through our legal team haha’.

Fast forward a few years, and how times have changed. Thanks to some early pioneers in the UK who were making the most of open source software in their quest to move to the cloud, we witnessed an awakening. Once Brits realised that adopting cloud, DevOp’s practices and open technology could get them to market quicker, more effciently, and for less money, there was no going back. We saw an explosion of use cases, companies, and meetups which fuelled an emerging ecosystem.

When Government Digital Services kicked off, and we saw the commitment from the public sector to open source in their building of GOV.UK we were really starting to power up and build a world-leading position in open technology.

More recently we’ve seen global adoption of open technology on a scale I couldn’t have imagined. Not only is open source being used to build new businesses, it’s also led to the creation of new business models, and we’ve seen multiple billion-dollar businesses built from one humble code commit on GitHub. I’m certain that it was our quick adoption of open technology, and how committed we have been to embracing it that has helped the UK build more $bn companies than the rest of Europe combined.

This puts the UK in a phenomenal position, and as open technology becomes the standard on which all software is built, I believe the UK is in a unique place to build a ‘platform for the world’s tech businesses.’

Ultimately, I believe this will create more jobs, more wealth, and more importantly, enable us to create better lives for people through more efficient services.

In my role as Entrepreneur in Residence for OpenUK, I’m trying to help encourage and support open tech founders in order to further this goal. In the process, I’m learning a lot about what it takes to help break down the barriers to getting started. Although we’ve achieved a lot already, there’s so much more we can be doing, and I’m hearing common themes around how we need to build skills, encourage engineers to come to the UK, and then make it as easy as possible for people from all walks of life the chance to build an open tech business.

Having built a successful business on open technology myself in the UK, I understand how this can be done, and I can also see the tremendous power of the opportunity we have at our feet. I look forward to welcoming you on the journey to embracing this.

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