Creating a FLOSS Roadmap, brick by BRIC

Last year I attended Open World Forum in Paris. It was a lively conference with broad representation of industry leaders, community organizers, and government officials and administrators. The warm reception by the Mayor’s office in Paris (at the Hôtel de Ville) underscored what has become increasingly obvious in the analysis of economic statistics: open source software is appreciated, in Paris, France, and Europe. My reflections on the subject of last year’s topic, the digital recovery, were captured in the blog posting From Free to Recovery. This year, the agenda of the Open World Forum (Sept 30-Oct 1, 2010) is more ambitious, and I am pleased to be on the program committee, an editor of the 3rd edition of the FLOSS 2020 Roadmap document, as well as one of the organizers of a think-tank session focused on, and beyond, the role of open source software and the future of the BRIC thesis.

In a nutshell, the BRIC thesis predicts that Brasil, Russia, India, and China will define an economic quartet of economic super-powers, emerging some time between 2020 and 2050. It presumes that world trade is still predicated upon the pattern of countries rich in natural resources (such as Brasil and Russia) trading with those with leading industrial and service economies (China and India) to make finished goods for global consumption. One need not be a global trade proponent to recognize the intrinsic strength and economic momentum these countries already have–China has already passed Japan to become the world’s 2nd largest economy by GDP, and it’s solidly on track to surpass both US and EU GDP in less than 20 years.

Yet the implications and outcomes of the BRIC thesis are not set in stone, despite being authored by Goldman Sachs. There are several countries whose primary (land mass, population), and secondary economic assets (intellectual capital, infrastructure, opportunities for development, etc) make them candidates to replace or augment the members of the quartet. For example, when measuring the per capita GDP, there is more than a factor of four difference between the expected performance of India’s per-capita GDP productivity in 2050 and that of South Korea. Is such a disparity actually sustainable? Moreover, the BRIC thesis says nothing about the role or influence of information technology on this new world order, despite a growing consensus that information technology is one of the defining forces of the 21st century. How will changes in information technology, especially the rise of open source software, change the dynamics of the BRIC thesis? These are some of the questions I hope to discuss as I travel around the world on my way to Paris in September.

I believe we are already beginning to see open source software helping governments to fundamentally retool themselves and the economic prospects for their countries. But we are in the very early days. Have you seen some really compelling stories in this regard you care to share? If so, please do!