Convening public benefit and charitable foundations working in open domains

SAN FRANCISCO – July 12, 2023 – The public policy team of the Open Source Initiative (OSI) has launched the Open Policy Alliance (OPA), a new program aimed at building and supporting a coalition of underrepresented voices from public benefit and charitable foundations. The OPA, has been created in response to increased demand for public dialog and stakeholder engagement in the Open Source software community as well as adjacent areas such as open content, research, AI and data.

Open Source ecosystem veteran Deborah Bryant, OSI US policy director, will lead the program. “While Open Source is a global, borderless activity, public policies are developed locally,” said Bryant. “The OPA will focus on education in the US while exchanging and sharing information with like-minded organizations globally. The OPA seeks to empower these voices and enable them to actively participate in educating and informing US public policy decisions related to Open Source software, content, research and education.”

The need to create such a program is more urgent today due to the rise of new regulations in the software industry and adjacent open domains around the world. Cyber security, the societal impact of AI, data and privacy are important issues for legislators globally. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic drove collaborative development to unprecedented levels and took Open Source software, open research, open content and data from mainstream to main stage. Moving forward, developing these important public policies whilst not harming the ecosystem requires an understanding of how the Open Source ecosystem works. Ensuring stakeholders without historic benefit of representation are included in those discussions becomes paramount to that end.

The OPA will focus on educating public policy makers on Open Source to inform their development and deliberation of new policy concepts. There are unintended consequences that come from a lack of understanding of how open collaboration works in practice. The OPA will address this as well as the historic absence of contribution from underrepresented groups. The interest areas of the OPA community will complement those of Digitable Public Goods Alliance, a UNICEF multi-stakeholder initiative with a mission to accelerate the attainment of sustainable development goals in low- and middle-income countries that OSI joined earlier this year.

Quotes from founding organizations of the OPA

“Open Source has changed the way we build software and the way the world interacts with technology for the better,” said Deb Nicholson, executive director, Python Software Foundation. “Now more than ever, policy makers need to hear from community-driven Open Source projects about how policy changes will affect developers, users and the future of collaboration. We’re glad the Open Source Initiative is bringing charitable foundations together to help provide that expertise.” 

“Open Source is in danger as the regulatory landscape around software is evolving,” said Thierry Carrez, general manager of the Open Infrastructure Foundation. “Who better than the OSI to gather and amplify the voices of the community’s Open Source organizations so that everyone can participate in that discussion? As an affiliate organization of the OSI, the OpenInfra Foundation is proud to join the OPA and increase our collaboration around such a timely initiative, as it complements work we already have underway with our hubs in Europe and Asia.”

“Open@RIT is honored to have been invited to join the OPA as a founding organization. We began teaching our students and faculty to become FOSS contributors and release their academic and research work in the open for 15 years,” said Stephen Jacobs, director. “During that time, the majority of our efforts have centered on supporting humanitarian and civic projects with organizations such as UNICEF, the New York state government and project communities like P5JS and Csound.  Because of the wide diversity of practices in these types of communities, it’s been challenging to put a representative voice out there that addresses their common needs; particularly around infrastructure and support for the communities that drive the technology forward and keep it stable. The OPA looks to fill that need. We’ve worked with Deb Bryant for over a decade and are pleased to hear that she’ll bring her wide and deep understanding of FOSS across the not-for-profit and for-profit worlds to the organization.”

“As advocates for digital openness, OpenForum Europe recognizes the opportunity presented by the Open Policy Alliance to give more voices and ideas a platform in digital policy development,” said Astor Nummelin Carlberg, executive director.  “We stand ready to share our knowledge and collaborate with like-minded organizations globally. This effort not only underscores the significance of Open Source in our interconnected world, but also the imperative for informed and inclusive policy making.”

“The FreeBSD Foundation is excited to participate in the OPA and thanks OSI for taking this initiative. Open Source has become ubiquitous, with one code-scanning company finding that 96% of ALL codebases contain Open Source,” said Deb Goodkin, executive director. “This means that securing and maintaining Open Source is necessary to securing our digital infrastructure. However, Open Source is not unitary. Much Open Source is corporate-backed, but many projects, such as FreeBSD, are community-driven. It is vital that policy makers understand the differences in these models in order to ensure that policies result in the desired outcomes.”

Public benefit and charitable foundations with an interest in Open Source software, content, research and education are encouraged to join the OPA. By working together, the coalition members will amplify their collective impact, creating a more inclusive and equitable future for Open Source. Founding organizations of the Open Policy Alliance include the non-profit organizations:

  • Apereo Foundation
  • FreeBSD Foundation
  • open@RIT
  • OpenInfra Foundation
  • Plone Foundation
  • Python Software Foundation
  • Associazione LibreItalia
  • The Document Foundation
  • Eclipse Foundation
  • KDE Foundation
  • OpenForum Europe
  • Open Source Hong Kong
  • OpenStreetMap Foundation

OSI Executive Director Stefano Maffulli will discuss the global policy landscape and the role the OPA will play in it at FOSSY 2023 in Portland, Ore on July 15th. For more information about the OPA visit its web page.

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