Challenges for Open Source Projects when Working with Public International Organisations

Open source projects often face the following three challenges when working with public international organisations like the United Nations and the Multilateral Development Banks (for simplicity below referred to as UN):

  1. Contracts assign the produced intellectual property (IP) to the contracting organisation (i.e. UN) but the contracting organisation does not have approved procedures to release that IP under an open source licence (so the results cannot be used by the open source project.)
  2. When products (software, data, documents, tools, etc.) are licensed, UN agencies often exclude commercial use which reduces the usability for non-profit open source projects too.
  3. UN agencies that develop their own open source licence, reduce the adoption of their code which is the aim of open-sourcing in the first place. 
  4. The UN procurement and contracting does not have appropriate procedures to financially support open source projects.

For each of these challenges, straightforward solutions can be developed if the right level of decision-makers can be mobilised to socialise or adjust standing procedures. To start the discussion, this document suggests some solutions to the above listed challenges.

We are seeking to engage with managers of UN agencies to resolve these challenges. 

Download this document to learn more