The German government has revealed that some of €500 million it has earmarked for boosting the country’s IT sector during the downturn will be directed towards boosting its open source software skills base.
The announcement reveals how the economic downturn is boosting support for open source software. As emergency measures to prop up the economy give governments greater influence and ownership in industry, the European public sector’s historic sympathy for open source is giving rise to greater investment, interest and legitimacy to the once-fringe software development model.
In the UK, the opening months of 2009 have seen politicians climb over one another to pay lip service to the open source movement. “Open source has been one of the most significant cultural developments in IT and beyond over the last two decades,” said minister for digital engagement Tom Watson MP in February.
Besides an ideology that is obstensibly more democratic and communal than traditional, proprietary software development, and having a lower price tag, open source software also suits government organisations because it allows them to develop and share their own adaptations and innovations, and to include expert citizens in the development process.
The German government has prepared a €50 billion economic stimulus package, one tenth of which will be directed towards the IT sector.
In December 2008, a report found that Germany’s IT sector was challenging the UK’s for European dominance. For example, the UK’s share of the EU’s software-linked venture capital money slipped from 37% in 2006 to 27% in 2008, while Germany’s grew to 19% in the same period.