Mapping Open Source

Article Source Community-cation
April 21, 2009, 6:51 am

I have a confession to make: I am a map geek.

Even my friends may find this a bit of a surprise; it’s not something I generally advertise. Not out of any particular need to keep it secret, mind you, but for the simple reason that maps simply don’t come up in conversation very often. My social skills may be awkward, but they’re not that bad.

For me, maps are a great way to show where things are now and where they have been before. One of my hobby-ish things to do is pour over Google Maps’ satellite view and look for old railroad track beds, to see where the old iron roads used to ply across the country before the age of the automobile, the truck, and the plane.

You can imagine, then, the little thrill I got when I heard about Red Hat’s new Open Source Index, which includes an interactive map that compares and contrasts open source activity and environment in the 75 countries studied for the Index. Red Hat did the study in conjunction with the Georgia Institute of Technology, measuring open source using two separate indices: one for activity and another for environment. According to Red Hat’s announcement, the activity index measures the amount of open source currently present in a country and includes concrete factors such as existing open source and open standards policies and the number of open source software users or producers. The environment index includes factors at a country level that may further, or coexist with, open source activity such as a high number of Internet users.

Researchers from Georgia Tech developed the framework for measuring open source usage after reviewing an extensive collection of academic literature, professional, and general media and holding in-depth interviews with open source experts and practitioners. Each of the 75 countries identified in the study received a summary score for activity and environment. Both activity and environment were measured on three dimensions: government, industry and community/education. Then, each dimension within activity and environment was measured along several quantitative indicators, the announcement added.

“Red Hat hopes the Open Source Index will serve as a resource for those within the open source community along with others who are curious about open source to start building relationships and further foster worldwide open source growth,” stated Tom Rabon, vice president, Corporate Affairs for Red Hat. “The message of the benefits and value open source delivers is resonating across the globe and there are several geographies that present a great opportunity for open source adoption.”

How did the countries stack up against each other? I thought the ranks were pretty telling, because the US almost didn’t make the top 10. This seems pretty surprising, until you consider how entrenched other proprietary software is within US markets. Here’s the top 10, based on Activity score:

Rank Country Activity
1 France 1.35
2 Spain 1.07
3 Germany 1.05
4 Australia 1.04
5 Finland 1.03
6 United Kingdom (of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) 1
7 Norway 0.95
8 Estonia 0.89
9 United States of America 0.89
10 Denmark 0.79

If you look at some of the other data, the ranks change quite a bit. In terms of Community Activity, the top 10 are:

CA Rank Country Community Activity
1 Estonia 1.86
2 United States of America 1.82
3 France 1.09
4 China, People’s Republic of 1.02
5 Germany 0.84
6 Japan 0.76
7 United Kingdom (of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) 0.76
8 India 0.74
9 Ireland 0.72
10 Spain 0.62

There’s a lot of data in here, so check it out and see how your location fares as an open source environment.