Evaluating the needs of FOSS communities working on digital infrastructure in the public interest
This report explores the unique nature of the community that builds and maintains free and open-source software (FOSS) and the role that community takes in shaping an open Internet. It draws on interviews with contributors to FOSS projects to highlight the community’s strengths as well as its challenges.
It finds that, while the community runs on trust-based relationships, self-organization and self-motivation, these foster a lack of organizational structure and low diversity among contributors. This results in a lack of different skills and perspectives that are necessary for running successful, sustainable projects, and lost opportunities to receive funding and other, non-monetary support.
Based on these insights, this report proposes recommendations of how funders can support the FOSS community more effectively. It was produced by Implicit Development Environments (IDE), a project supported by the Ford Foundation in the context of the Critical Digital Infrastructure Research fund.
How to read this report
We conducted 26 interviews from which we gathered a set of insights that we believe can help funders to better understand digital infrastructure projects, especially those that are less visible. We matched each insight with a number of recommendations that illustrate how sponsors can improve and expand their work with infrastructure projects. We classified these insights according to four overarching topics: Portrait, Community, Technology and Funding.
You can read more about the motivation for this report, its methodology, and a breakdown of different types of infrastucture projects under project details or download the report as a PDF.
What are the technological specificities that set infrastructure projects apart from other tech projects? What are the key challenges that arise out of their work?
Who takes up which roles within a community? Which dynamics make a community work well, and which threaten their stability?