The Center, with support from key partners, will provide resources to help high-impact software for social good reach greater adoption.
Today, the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) announced the formation of its new Open Source Center (OSC), and two partners – Digital Square and Software Freedom Conservancy – who will support the Center’s work. The Center will act as a resource to open source software projects serving international development and humanitarian response, providing a variety of shared services, insights and mentorship from partners, as well as funding opportunities. The Center is currently offering its first round of catalytic grants to address a range of challenges including effectiveness and momentum. In this first round, four grants will be made, up to $25,000 each, to projects that foster a healthy, sustainable open source community and products. Applications for funding of new participating members is now available, with a November 8 deadline for initial letters of interest.
Over the past decade, the international development community has been exploring how digital technologies, such as open source software, can extend the reach of development efforts. However, often a lack of long-term investment prevents projects from maturing and scaling to reach widespread adoption throughout the development sector.
DIAL and its partners are committed to changing that through the Open Source Center. By engaging a community of engineers and implementers, meaningful investments can be made to help high-impact international technology for development (T4D) projects reach their potential. As part of its collective action to assist its members, the Center will make available a variety of shared services, either directly by participating organizations or through a variety of coordinated service delivery partners. Services range from mentorship and leveraging the Center’s collective knowledge and lessons learned for best practices, to technical professional assistance to support day-to-day operations and growth, including legal, IT infrastructure, product management, engineering management and community management. Additionally, the Open Source Center will offer participating members access to tactical grants throughout the year.
“One of the lessons that open source software development has taught us over the last 20 years is the value of leveraging best practices rather than reinventing the wheel,” said Jeff Wishnie, DIAL’s Senior Director of Platforms & Services, and interim project leader of the Open Source Center. “That’s why we are pleased to be working with best-of-breed partners to provide these valuable services to our member projects. We look forward to forging even more partnerships that benefit our members in the months and years to come.”
Further, the Open Source Center will support sector specific efforts in the ICT4D space by forming Sustainability Advisory Groups (SAGs) to help connect projects with financial investments. The first SAG formed will focus on the health sector and feature Digital Square, a new global initiative housed at PATH, as Secretariat. Digital Square is a partnership of the world’s leading digital health experts from 40+ organizations and countries.
“One of Digital Square’s top priorities is supporting coordinated investments into scalable digital health technologies and tools,” said Dykki Settle, Director of Digital Health at PATH. “Our close partnership with the Open Source Center helps to ensure the quality and maturity of these digital health tools, which is critical to the development of a robust global health data infrastructure.”
To address many of the legal and financial management challenges digital technology projects face, the Center has partnered with Software Freedom Conservancy to offer access to basic stewardship services, trademark registrations, and intellectual property management. Conservancy is a not-for-profit organization that promotes, empowers, and defends free and open source software projects. Participants will have priority access to Conservancy’s comprehensive fiscal sponsorship services, enabling them to offload the complex management issues that a standalone foundation would involve.
“Conservancy is committed to supporting software development communities who create ethical technology for the public’s benefit,” said Karen Sandler, executive director. “Our team is strongly aligned with DIAL’s mission to build more mature technology products and communities to support international development. We are eager to increase the impact of those projects by connecting them with our expertise and services.”
These strong partnerships are only the beginning of value-add services for members of the DIAL Open Source Center. The Center’s governance advisory board will continually work to forge new partnerships with other service delivery partners. Plans are underway to announce additional sector-based Sustainability Advisory Groups and additional service partners during the Center’s first year.
Over the past several months, the Center has been working with several successful ICT4D open source projects to refine the program’s strategy and services. The OSC website is now active in beta mode, and soliciting potential members to join and help shape the program. For more information about the DIAL Open Source Center — including details on available services, the membership process and contact information — visit the program’s web site: http://osc.dial.community/