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Dr Jennifer Barth, Smoothmedia

State of Open: The UK in 2022

Phase One: “The Open Source Journey”

The UK’s Open Source Software landscape, detailed in the “State of Open: The UK in 2022” report, highlights a successful journey from consumption to contribution and distribution. The survey of almost 250 participants reveals a maturity in Open Source practices, with organisations crossing the chasm through crucial enabling factors. Case studies, such as Dumfries and Galloway Council and the BBC, showcase diverse approaches. Good hygiene indicators, like internal policies and community involvement, contribute to stable bridges for Open Source Software development. The majority of respondents (81%) engage in consuming, contributing, and distributing, indicating positive growth. The report underscores a cultural shift, emphasising collaboration and meaningful experiences, paving the way for both technical and cultural transformation in Open Source adoption.

Conclusion – Thought Leadership
Dr Jennifer Barth, Smoothmedia

For the second consecutive year we surveyed organisations in the UK about the role of Open Source Software in their practices and processes, their challenges, the skill set they need, and their organisational goals. We were delighted when almost 250 people took the time to fill it in, and pleased by the results. In 2021 we looked at adoption to showcase the vast amount of Open Source Software innovation and innovators in the UK. In 2022 we charted the journey to Open Source Software maturity – those consuming; consuming and distributing; and those organisations consuming, contributing and distributing, Open Source Software – and found that organisations in the UK are mature in relation to Open Source. We draw attention to the importance of innovation in that journey to maturity.

Roger’s Law of Diffusion helps us to understand how innovation moves through different audiences and levels of engagement. Diffusion, he notes, is the process by which a new innovation or product is communicated over time amongst the participants in a social system or market. New ideas move through from disruptive innovators to early adopters fairly seamlessly before reaching a critical point, a chasm, that organisations must move through to come out the other side of majority. We know how this works in practise but in order to demonstrate that journey for any individual set of technologies or domains – like the proliferation of Open Source Software – through various levels of maturity, you first need to understand what are the catalysts or enablers that support organisations with shifting from one stage of maturity to another.

Organisations have long been challenged to cross the chasm in innovation theory but are often bewildered by what steps would be necessary to get their product into the mainstream or to enable whole organisation adoption and willingness to engage with new things. This year’s State of Open: The UK in 2022 report focuses on the Open Source journey and reveals some of the crucial enabling factors that support organisations to cross that chasm. We chart the landscape from consuming Open Source Software to a deeper level of maturity including contributing and then distributing, bringing to light what it takes to go wider and deeper with Open Source Software – to integrate, collaborate and extend its reach.

Case studies including Dumfries and Galloway Council in Scotland, the Scottish are treading into new territory, consuming Open Source Software for social good with all of its scalability potential. The Scottish Government is encouraging cooperation and interoperability with its Analytical Workbench. The BBC Research and Development team knows the quality of code and OpenStack is made better by the BBC contributing upstream – they are leading lights in broadcasting technology. The BBC’s Standards project knows the value of collaboration and creating a tool that has a global importance and reach.

To cross a chasm you have to build bridges and these need to be stable, able to bear weight, and be a foundation for further development. We take the research through precisely this bridge building by showing the aspects of good hygiene that organisations are adopting to support and sustain Open Source Software development.

These good hygiene indicators include having policies and procedures in place internally to guide security, legal and other aspects of development – using SBOM’s, implementing Open Chain, being members of Open Invention Network or OpenSSF or other Open Source organisations all indicate a connection to the broader community and being involved in setting standards the ecosystem can follow.

The small number of respondents in the survey that are only consuming Open Source Software, regardless of the length of time they have been doing so, have not yet taken the leap across the chasm and show very low numbers in respect of good hygiene. The governance and hygiene numbers grow as we look at organisations that both consume and contribute. Certainly in the interviews with individuals and case studies it was clear that moving from consuming only to contributing to code increases engagement with the network of Open Source Software people and resources and makes visible the need for policies and procedures to guide interaction.

The numbers start to look healthy when looking at the majority of the respondents, 81%, that consume, contribute to and distribute Open Source Software. As such, we found in the UK these bridges are being built and there is migration across them in many areas and industries. These foundational elements are catalysts for believing in the stability of the bridge that allows Open Source Software to drive business growth and opportunity. Skyscanner has built its business on these foundational elements, Nationwide pushes the financial world with its use of Open Source Software in a traditionally less open industry and New Look will use Open Source Software in and through its digital transformation re-boot.

On the other side of the chasm lies a whole new land to explore: new markets, new brown and green field spaces to take on new competitors, new audiences and increased access to them, and customer engagement. Here you need to be able to explain your presence and to make clear your purpose, the impacts you will have and the speed at which you can deliver the results.

This is nothing less than a cultural transformation that can occur alongside the technical transformation. A willingness to engage more deeply, to create richer and more meaningful experiences and to collaborate. The research shows that collaboration is strong amongst organsiations in the UK at 94%. OVO’s Domain Protect is a showcase for a high level of maturity in realising both the internal potential and need of the project and also the creative potential of contributors, the skill development it enables and how it allows OVO to place itself as a technological innovator.

This cultural shift brings to bear the literacies that need to be in place to harness the potential of this frontier. The situation looks good and with awareness and action towards responsible citizenship in the Open Source community is growing. We now need to further integrate the next step – critical thinking, a sense of purpose, and a willingness to engage more deeply to create richer and more meaningful experiences.

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