Open Source in Russia: To Be or Not to Be?
The roots of the transition to open-source software originated many years ago
People essentially learned to write programmes some time back in the 1940s, but they began using the same programmes in different hardware platforms in the 1960s. [...] I think the USSR was actually one of the first promoters of open source, because these clones were born from [...] the direct copying of American systems. [...] At that time, the role of hardware was still very important. That’s what set the tone. So, there was no way to reuse the code. The role of software has been growing since around the start of Windows in the 1990s. […] Since then, the Internet and network-centric computing have emerged. This was precisely the time when the transition to free and open-source software began — Ilya Massukh, Director, Competence Centre for the Import Substitution of Information and Communication Technologies.
Russian developers are among the most active in creating open source
If we’re talking about Russia, then [it’s] one of the three most active developer countries in Europe. Not just in terms of consumers, but developers [Russia] is among the ten leading countries in the world. If you look at growth rates, Russia is in third place. That is to say, you are growing more actively than other countries. If we take into account the ratio of this community of developers to the general population, we can see that there is huge potential here. We see that in a number of countries, for example, in the UK, these figures are three times higher than in Russia, but the growth rates are not as active — Marco Berkovich, Regional Manager, Europe, GitHub.
Open source will soon become more popular than proprietary
With the support of the Russian division of Accenture, we conducted a study that produced the following preliminary results. [...] The overwhelming number of companies in the world are deciding to switch to open source for individual components of their digital systems and products that they use. Whereas in 2018 it was only half of the companies, today about 80% of companies are taking these decisions in one way or another. The market is growing very quickly. My colleagues and I are almost certain that in the next 2–3 years the share of open source will exceed the share of proprietary code. […] The ratio will be somewhere between 44% and a little over 30% for the main products. We see how quickly the numbers are growing, which means this is an attractive market. More and more companies are turning to this topic — Arkady Dvorkovich, Chairman, Skolkovo Foundation.
Big tech companies struggle switching to open source
An interesting trend is that the companies that used to be as closed as possible and only used the same type of solutions, shall we say – I’m referring to banks, oil companies, and complex technology companies – are increasingly switching to open source and are not afraid of it at all. Well, they are afraid, but being afraid is one thing, and making all these strategic decisions and doing it is another. Why are they afraid? Because […] they see that there is not enough expertise within the companies themselves to transfer complex systems to open source. Simply introducing this culture into a corporation is a problem. There is a technological barrier due to the compatibility of different systems. Sometimes it’s very difficult to do only a part of systemic open source, and the rest has to be left on traditional software with problems of integration between systems in complex organizations and complex platforms. Ultimately, there is a security problem — Arkady Dvorkovich, Chairman, Skolkovo Foundation.
The Russian authorities have yet to develop a clear position on the use of open source
[The government] has not indicated any clear position [on the use of open source]. We believe that this position needs to be expressed. It should be as clear and categorical as possible in the sense that it should become the main line of support for us. [...] There are three reasons [for the importance of government support for open source]. The first one is technological development [...] and flexibility, including the speed of product development and the efficiency of using public resources. [...] The second is technological security, information security, and the ability to conduct an independent audit of source code. [...] And the third is technological independence, [including] a reduction of sanctions risks and dependence on global vendors — Maksim Parshin, Deputy Minister of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media of the Russian Federation.
The world has already created open-source bases to solve a huge number of problems
Of course, there are centralized platforms. We now have 56 million [developers] on our platform. This is truly a global base from all countries. Even from the Vatican, we have developers and they enrich this open-source base. These [open source] projects are never tied to a specific geography or a specific country, and this is always some kind of global, powerful effort. [...] If we are talking about proprietary software, 94% of such software [...] includes open source, [...] and 80% of all these applications. [...] So, we are developing some kind of application or some government structure. They say: ‘We need to develop a specific search algorithm’. You will be using open source. If you need to develop some kind of database, you don’t have to make it from scratch. [It] has already been developed. So, of course, these elements that already exist and are already open make it possible to maximize the efficiency of this work — Marco Berkovich, Regional Manager, Europe, GitHub.
Permitting the use of open source at the legislative level will simplify development for the government’s needs
How do we need to continue this work [to introduce open source]? [...] This applies to both business and the public sector. There is no such magic recipe here. The first step, which will definitely be very important, is the need to open and remove these programmes and codes from the proprietary status. It’s actually quite simple. [...] If something in the public domain has already been developed, perhaps it’s necessary at the legislative level to ensure [the ability] to use this code, and not to come up with and invent everything from scratch — Marco Berkovich, Regional Manager, Europe, GitHub.