In the second part of the meeting, Olivier Praz, Senior Policy Advisor, Global Programme Health, SDC, facilitated a discussion regarding the relationship between open source software like openIMIS and private local businesses— those based in countries where openIMIS is or has the potential to be implemented.
Why businesses choose openIMIS: Not having to pay for licenses is an obvious financial benefit to businesses when using open source software, but there are other important advantages. Yolande M. Goswell, Project Manager at 2M Corp, the company which customised openIMIS for a cash transfer scheme in Gambia, spoke of the ‘continuous community of developers’ that works to improve openIMIS, which provides valuable support and expertise when meeting challenges, such as in 2M Corp’s recent work transitioning to the modular version of the software. Maxime Ngoe, Director General of Y-note, agreed, citing the importance of the community’s 'knowledge and experiences,’ and the confidence of knowing that openIMIS is continually tested and tried by a diverse set of users.
Mutually beneficial: The advantages of the relationship between open source software and private business are not one-sided. Uwe Wahser, ICT Adviser to the openIMIS Coordination Desk at GIZ, highlighted the benefits of proximity to the experience of private businesses. Lessons taken from those developing and implementing openIMIS leads to better, more efficient implementations in the future. Mr Wahser also explained that any companies who sell and distribute the software (as opposed to using it internally) are obliged to feedback any improvements made to the core code. Such code contributions are a huge advantage in the continued improvement and innovation of openIMIS.
Attracting users to openIMIS: Having established the benefits of this relationship for both openIMIS and businesses, panelists considered how the openIMIS initiative might assist businesses when pitching open source software to potential users. Steven Wanyee Macharia, CEO at IntelliSOFT Consulting, called for a cost analysis and valuation of global goods like openIMIS. He argued that there is misconception about free open source software that it cost nothing to build and isn’t very good. Being able to cite the cost of openIMIS’s development, Mr Wanyee argued, would increase the understanding of its quality, and enable businesses to make a stronger case for its deployment when tendering bids.
Facilitator of the panel discussion:
Olivier Praz, Senior Policy Advisor, Global Programme Health / SDC