While only twenty years ago open-source software was simply a curiosity that attracted the attention of a few academics and was not seriously considered in the software industry, open-source infrastructure today is ubiquitous, powering applications in virtually every domain.
Economists refer to open-source software as digital dark matter, to signify both its invisibility and importance. They also report valuations of open-source software in the billions of dollars per year, in terms of both direct reuse value and boosted productivity and efficiency.
Given the importance of open-source digital infrastructure to so much of the economy, one might expect that it is adequately staffed and maintained, i.e., sustainable. Yet, this is often not the case. As a recent Ford Foundation report investigating the sustainability of open-source digital infrastructure notes, most users of open-source infrastructure take it for granted, and society at large is unaware of the risks.
In this project we study ways to increase the sustainability of open-source digital infrastructure.
Here’s a recent talk outlining some of the sustainability challenges that open-source ecosystems face today.