Recently, the billionaire space race sparked everything from debates to frenzied excitement, depending on who you ask. But there’s one thing we can all agree on – humans are making real, significant strides in space exploration. We only have to look at the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, which departed Earth for its 293 million mile trip to Mars aboard the Perseverance Rover last July. Marking a huge milestone for humanity, the 1.8 kilogram helicopter hovered 10 feet above the surface of Mars, in an atmosphere that’s less than 1% of earth’s density, proving – for the first time – that it’s possible for a helicopter to achieve lift-off on Mars.
To make this launch possible, Ingenuity’s software required intense preparation, no margin for error and real time collaboration. But behind Ingenuity’s expansive software there was another crucial element – thousands of open source developers from all over the world, many of whom were unaware of the significance of their contributions. With nearly 12,000 people on GitHub contributing code, documentation, graphic design, and more, it’s fair to say that the explosion of open source made this historic space mission possible.
And it’s not just space exploration. The world is powered by software. It touches every aspect of our lives, from our cars, to how we communicate, connect, live and work. Today, 99% of software projects are developed using open source. The mobile phones we use everyday are underpinned by open source technology, with Android OS and Apple’s iOS both relying on many open source components. These operating systems have revolutionised the way we use smartphones and created a flourishing mobile economy. WordPress uses open source so people and businesses can easily create websites, forming the backend of many websites you regularly visit. Even the US air traffic control (ATC) relies on Linux, one of the most popular open source operating systems, to monitor aeroplanes in the sky. The list goes on with industries such as automotive, finance, telecommunications, and many more all using open source.
It’s easy to see why open source software is attractive to so many organisations and why it’s experiencing increased adoption across verticals. Open source democratises technology and enables fast innovation by giving organisations access to a global pool of talent and the tools needed to develop secure, reliable and scalable software. Plus, it almost always offers a cost advantage and high functionality. There’s also a passionate and ever-growing worldwide community to tap into when it comes to support and bug fixes. Businesses are paying attention to these benefits and are realising that increasing the use of open source software and adopting more collaborative development methodologies is now a competitive economic advantage.
The power of open source has captured the attention of governments as well. The Indian government, for example, is a strong advocate and promoter of open source, having recognised how it can help bridge the digital divide in India. Driving open source innovation and open APIs has been a central pillar to the government’s Digital India vision. Many of the government’s citizen connect initiatives like Aarogya Setu, the AADHAR initiative, and the Cowin app for managing the Covid-19 vaccine drive, have all made use of open source. This has helped accelerate the development of these programs and also allows others to integrate and build on top of them.
India has a unique advantage, given the large and diverse STEM talent pool, and is already playing a leading role in the global open source community. We have some of the largest systems integrators as well as global innovation centres that are creating compelling projects, plus a diverse ecosystem of start-ups and enterprises that are driving digital transformation. I’m proud, and truly inspired, by the Indian developers who are building and enabling the software of the future, thanks to their participation and contribution to open source projects.
In the next five years, open source development will be driven by an increased demand for applications and software. We’re already seeing this trend within the open source community in India. The number of contributions to public open source repositories surged by 80 percent on GitHub in 2020 from India and it is the world's fastest growing country in terms of new open source developers. Over one million developers in India created their first repository on GitHub this past year, more than any other country in the world! The GitHub developer community in India totals 5.8M developers as of March 2021 and by February 2023, we believe more than 10 million developers in India will be calling GitHub home. India is well and truly an innovation powerhouse, with open source software development at the core, and uniquely positioned to continue driving innovation that accelerates human progress.