Skip to content

The changing nature of governmental policies around open source

In 2022, governments and the policy community spent a lot of time thinking about open source. Here's what that means and why it matters.

The changing nature of governmental policies around open source
This is part of our Octoverse 2022 report, which explores the state of open source software, its impact on companies, and key trends shaping software development.

Over the past year, open source attracted unprecedented attention from governments and the global policy community. In particular, security events have highlighted the criticality of open source while concerns about autonomy, competitiveness, and transparency attest to the power of open source. New research has also made open source more intelligible to policymakers. With more policymakers aware of OSS, there are more opportunities to champion open source in public policy.

So, how are governments using OSS?

Some governments are open sourcing policy initiatives to improve governmental transparency while others are leveraging OSS solutions to improve efficiency, mitigate security risks, and modernize aging systems.

In part because of this, policymakers have gained increased interest in further securing the OSS supply chain as vulnerabilities have surfaced in widely used open source dependencies. We anticipate that the interest in convening discussions on securing OSS—for example, in the White House Open Source Software Security Summit—will lead to an increase in regulatory efforts such as the forthcoming European Union Cyber Resilience Act, and funding initiatives like the German Sovereign Tech Fund. Both efforts are designed to help build greater security into core digital infrastructure, and to make critical software that powers that infrastructure interoperable and freely accessible.

As governments recognize the need to increase their own open source competencies and engagement, we have seen a trend toward establishing Open Source Programs Offices (OSPOs) in government organizations. These program offices are largely being leveraged to standardize how governments understand what OSS solutions they’re using and can implement policies and programs to strategically invest in, contribute to, and solidify those solutions.

While the need for public policy to foster—or at least do no harm to—open source might be intuitive to developers and an increasing number of policymakers, there is a need for evidence and explanation of the value of open source to bring governments on board and secure long-term support and protection for open source development. In 2021, the European Commission published a landmark study that found open source contributed between €65 and €95 billion to the European economy ($63.10 and $92.2 billion USD). For the U.S. to champion a federal policy agenda for OSS, we need more research on the value of open source.

At the end of the day, open source is and will continue to be a global team sport. Over the past year governments and policymakers have increasingly identified themselves as players, and we’re excited for what’s to come.

What to watch

Look for additional policy formation around OSS and additional research efforts to evaluate the contribution of open source collaboration to innovation, job creation, and more globally.

Explore more from GitHub



See what’s happening in the open source community.
GitHub Universe ‘22 Dev

GitHub Universe ‘22

The global developer event for cloud, security, community, and AI
GitHub Actions

GitHub Actions

Native CI/CD alongside code hosted in GitHub.
Work at GitHub!

Work at GitHub!

Check out our current job openings.