Open Source Appropriate Technology Literature Review

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Literature Review

This literature review was ported on 4/24/12 from Appropedia and is maintained by the Michigan Tech Open Sustainability Technology research group

Appropriate Technology

The Case for Open Source Appropriate Technology

Source and full text: Joshua M. Pearce, “The Case for Open Source Appropriate Technology”, Environment, Development and Sustainability 14, pp. 425–431 (2012).

  • Abstract:Much of the widespread poverty, environmental desecration, and waste of human life seen around the globe could be prevented by known (to humanity as a whole) technologies, many of which are simply not available to those that need it. This lack of access to critical information for sustainable development is directly responsible for a morally and ethically unacceptable level of human suffering and death. A solution to this general problem is the concept of open source appropriate technology or OSAT, which refers to technologies that provide for sustainable development while being designed in the same fashion as free and open-source software. OSAT is made up of technologies that are easily and economically utilized from readily available resources by local communities to meet their needs and must meet the boundary conditions set by environmental, cultural, economic, and educational resource constraints of the local community. This paper explores both the open source and appropriate technology aspects of OSAT to create a paradigm, in which anyone can both learn how to make and use needed technologies free of IP concerns. At the same time anyone can also add to the collective open source knowledge ecosystem or knowledge commons by contributing ideas, designs, observations, experimental data, deployment logs, etc. It is argued that if OSAT continues to grow and takes hold globally creating a vibrant virtual community to share technology plans and experiences, a new technological revolution, built on a dispersed network of innovators working together to create a just sustainable world is possible.

Open Design-Based Strategies to Enhance Appropriate Technology Development

Source and full text: A. J. Buitenhuis, I. Zelenika and J. M. Pearce, “Open Design-Based Strategies to Enhance Appropriate Technology Development”, Proceedings of the 14th Annual National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance Conference : Open, March 25-27th 2010, pp. 1-12.

  • Abstract: The appropriate technology (AT) movement is being driven by inventors and innovators who are interested in designing technologies that are culturally, environmentally,and economically appropriate, and feasible to construct and use for people anywhere in the world. This paper examines how open sharing of designs, specifications, and technical information can enhance effectiveness, widespread use, and innovation of AT. This commons-based open design method has been highly successful for software development (i.e., open source), and has also begun to be used in other fields through unique partnerships and new information-sharing tools on the internet. This paper critically demonstrates key examples of open design successes that can be applied to development of AT. It also identifies potential barriers to open-sourcing AT designs, analyzes business models for open design in the context of AT, and outlines practical solutions with examples currently underway.

Overcoming Technical Constraints for Obtaining Sustainable Development with Open Source Appropriate Technology

Source: Joshua M. Pearce and Usman Mushtaq, “Overcoming Technical Constraints for Obtaining Sustainable Development with Open Source Appropriate Technology”, Science and Technology for Humanity (TIC-STH), 2009 IEEE Toronto International Conference, pp. 814-820, 26-27 Sept. 2009.

  • Abstract: Open source appropriate technology (OSAT) refers to technologies that provide for sustainable development while being designed in the same fashion as free and open source software. Facilitated by advances in information technology software and hardware, new ways to disseminate information such as wikis and Internet-enabled mobile phones, the global development of OSAT has emerged as a reality. This paper shows the sharing of design processes, appropriate tools, and technical information is enables more effective and rapid development of appropriate technologies for both industrialized and non-industrialized regions. This sharing will require the appropriate technology community to adopt open standards/licenses, document knowledge, and build on previous work. This paper offers solutions in the form of both business models and tools to overcome technical constraints of OSAT development in the forms of the platforms necessary on which to share and build knowledge about appropriate technologies. These solutions are open, easily accessible for those in need, have a low barrier to entry for both users and information creators, and must be vetted in order to utilized as a trustworthy source on critical information needs. Current progress towards implementing these solutions will be reviewed and recommendations will be made to further increase the rate of OSAT development.

Teaching Physics Using Appropriate Technology Projects

Source: Pearce, Joshua M., "Teaching Physics Using Appropriate Technology Projects" The Physics Teacher 45, no. 3 (March, 2007): 164-167, doi:10.1119/1.2709675.

This paper discusses the problem of non-physics majors’ lack of interest and motivation in learning physics, and proposes appropriate technology classroom projects as a potential solution. It highlights the potential of appropriate technology to improve the lives of people in developing countries and suggests that having appropriate technology projects in university-level physics classrooms would add to the body of knowledge, as well as spark the interests of students in physics. The author discusses his experience, where he gave five physics classes a final project related to Appropriate technologies for developing communities. The results were an increased interest and understanding of the material as evidenced by the time and energy put into the final project, as well as the increase in exam marks after the project was completed.

Virtues of Mundane Science

Source: Daniel M. Kammen and Michael R Dove, “Virtues of Mundane Science”, Environment 39, no. 6 (August 1997): 10-15, 38-41.

This article argues that in order to achieve Sustainable development, an interdisciplinary approach must be taken to studying “mundane” science. It gives the example of wood cook stoves, which many people in developing countries use to cook, and which cause a large number of health and safety-related issues. However, an improved cook stove is not a trivial problem, and takes it takes research of scientists, engineers, economists, development workers and community members to come up with the best solution. The authors thus call for scientific research to focus on “mundane” science problems that affect a large portion f the world’s poor. The article gives five fallacies within this problem:

  1. mundane science is seen as anti-scientific (ex: AT movement, which is seen not as a new field of research but as a counter movement to regular scientific research)
  2. anything but traditional basic scientific research is not seen to result is significant discoveries
  3. basic science is seen as more respectable and worthwhile than applied science into mundane problems
  4. development outcomes are seen as technological rather than social (ex: a project resulting in deforestation is seen as having accidental outcomes, and thus no effort is put into studying this aspect of the project-problems are seen as accidental instead of systemic)
  5. Mundane science is sometimes not seen as scientific(ex: growing crops is seen as scientific and thus much research is focused there. Storing and transporting goods is seen as social and thus no research is focused there, even though most crops spoil during storage and transport)

Thus, the authors call for a shift in focus of scientific research mundane topics

The Rise and Fall of the Appropriate Technology Movement in the United States, 1965 - 1985

Source: Pursell, Carroll. "The Rise and Fall of the Appropriate Technology Movement in the United States, 1965 - 1985" Technology and Culture, Vol 34, No. 3: 629-637 (July 1993).

  • This paper describes the development of the AT industry in the 60’s and 70’s, and its consequent decline in the late 70s and 80s. Its rise is linked to the post-war attitudes of the realization of the failure of Western technological ideals, and the rise of dependency theories in the 1960s. It describes two books, “Small is beautiful” by E. F. Schumacher, as well as “Soft Energy Paths”, as key books that advocated for the forwarding of ‘appropriate technology’. The Appropriate Technology movement, also called the Alternative Technology movement, was developed along with the environmental movement and its main purpose was to provide developing nations with access to technology that was culturally relevant, environmentally sustainable and locally manufacturable. President Carter initiated various programs, groups, and funds supporting renewable energies and AT (Community Action Agencies, National Centre for Appropriate Technology), showing that there was political will to support the AT movement.
  • The decline of the appropriate technology movement is said to be part of the ‘remasculinization’ of US after the Vietnam War through the Reagan regime. It was said have failed because of the inability to counter advocates of the agribusiness, large private utilities, and multinational construction companies. For these groups, the elitist, narrow and traditional definition of the word ‘technology’ was maintained in order to forward their interests, and not those of the developing world.

Appropriate Technology Needs Political Push

Source: Jequier, Nicolas. "APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY NEEDS POLITICAL PUSH", World Health Forum. 2(4); 541-543. 1981.

  • Explains how the appropriate technology concept has won the support of the leading figures in industry and finance but that the main obstacles are not technical but political.

Soft Tech/Hard Tech, Hi Tech/Lo Tech: A Social Movement Analysis of Appropriate Technology

Source:Denton E. Morrison, "Soft Tech/Hard Tech, Hi Tech/Lo Tech: A Social Movement Analysis of Appropriate Technology", Sociological Inquiry 53, no. 2-3 (1983): 220-248.

This paper examines appropriate technology as a social movement. The AT movement developed as a result of:

  • Frustration that technology transfer is skewed towards industrial development, disillusions with “trickle down” method
    • ex: green revolution helped capital development, but negatively affected poorest farmers the most, increased urban-to-rural migration
  • Schumachr’s “Small is Beautiful”
  • Environmentalism, because AT brought together social justice as well as environmental respect, which helped against the critiques of the environmental movement
  • Feminism and poor people’s movements, although the relationships are complicated

The belief of the AT is that systems that are capital/resource intensive alienate people from their jobs, and are elitist and exclusive; people are largely controlled by the technology itself. Systems which are decentralized and resource conserving are inclusive and allow ordinary people to be involved in the process of technology development.

The paper brings up the new movement of high technologies, and questions whether they can be considered AT. They could be considered AT because some believe they improve quality of life. Robots could replace humans in tedious jobs, allowing humans more reasonable working conditions and communication technologies could allow for more equitable and representative and democratic discussions. On the other hand, high-tech research is still profit/capital driven, and its main focus is not sustainability or equality. Also, the growth of high-tech technologies could be seen as creating less human relationships and spaces.


  • Hard technology: one that creates inequitable social impacts, impacts on environment… that decrease quality of life
  • Soft/appropriate technology: has impacts that are socially equitable, environmentally benign

Appropriate Technology: Tools, Choices and Implications

Source: Barrett Hazeltine and Christopher Bull, “Appropriate Technology: Tools, Choices and Implications”, Academic Press, 1999, 350 pp (Hardcover)


  • Appropriate Technology: what it is and why we care
  • Basics : Electricity, Hydropower, Wind Power,
  • Photovoltaic Power,
  • Methane Digesters
  • Agriculture
  • Aquaculture
  • Health Care
  • Solar Energy
  • Appropriate Technology in the Third World
  • Appropriate Technology In the US
  • Culture and Women
  • Technology policy
  • The Prospects for Appropriate Technology

Science and Technology for Development

Source:James Smith. “Science and Technology for Development“, Development Matters. Zed Books, 2009.

Science and Technology for Development offers a very nice and crucial overview of some of the problems associated with development and deployment of science and technology in developing world. Some key ideas raised are: a) technology is not something inert, neutral and devoid of its own context, b) Knowledge ought not be valued for its subjective appeal, but inherently and contextually in its application and relevance, c) Making technologies work work for the poor is not about the fabrication of technologies themselves but it is about enabling people to make technology work for them through learning, capacity building and policy.

  • Introduction
    1. Rethinking Technology for Development
    2. The Institutionalisation and Internationalization of Science
    3. Making Technology Work for the Poor?
    4. Governing Technologies for Development
    5. Conclusion: Can Technology Transform Development?

Finding New Routes in Old Paths: Linking Cultural Needs to Technical Knowledge – Appropriate Technology Inspires Developing Societies Concept, Controversy and Clarification

Source: Felix Ryan and Franklin Vivekananda. Finding New Routes in Old Paths: Linking Cultural Needs to Technical Knowledge – Appropriate Technology Inspires Developing Societies Concept, Controversy and Clarification. Bethany Books, 1993 (Hardcover)

  • Very good chapters on appropriate technology transfer:
    AT: Critical choice for the third world
    AT: Concept and Controversy
    AT: At the Crossroads
    AT: Concept of Size
    AT: Quickening Transfer
    AT: To be Classified
    AT: Problems Facing Africa
    AT: Equity Unions – transferring capital, technology and management

The AT reader: theory and practice in appropriate technology

Source: Ed, Marilyn Carr. The AT reader: theory and practice in appropriate technology, London UK: Intermediate Technology Publications, 1985.

  • 465 pages, Chapters containing diverse list of authors discussing the following key topics:

*Appropriate Technology: History, Concepts and Evolution: Definition, Criticism, Society and Environment, Growth of the Movement
*Technology Choice: Theory and Practice: Theoretical Aspects, Considerations, Examples
*Technology for Development: Food Production, Post- Harvest Systems, Livestock and Animal Health Care
*Health, Water and Sanitation: Health, Water and Sanitation,
*Biomass and renewable Energy: Stove, Trees and Agri Residues, Renewable Energy
*Housing, Construction and Transport: Housing, Roads and Bridges, Low Cost Transport
*Small Scale Manufacturing, Mining and Recycling
*Generation and Transfer of Technology: Formal and Informal Sources, Tech Transfer and Aid,
*Dissemination of Technolgy: National Policies and Development Plans, Channels of Diffusion, Promoting Small Enterprises
*Education, Training and Communication: Formal Education, Formal and Informal Training and Communication

Appropriate technology: problems and promises

Ed, Nicolas Jéquier. "Appropriate technology: problems and promises", Development Centre of the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development. Paris, 1976

Book that came out of 1974 meeting on low cost technology organized on 17th-20th September 1974 by OECD Development Center.

p. 9 Intermediate, low-cost, appropriate, self help technology – The underlying principles of all of these indicate a progress from within society – emerging trend. "Choice of technology" a growing trend within the analytical studies. p. 11 Book based on the practitioners experiences: Practitioners points of View + Major Policy Issues. But different ways of looking at things based on experiences.

Major questions addressed:

  • Rural Industrialization – how low cot tech improved local metal-works
  • Nature of Science and Technology policy for Rural Developmental – what role do the Universities have
  • How Viable have small-scale micro development projects become
  • Foreign Aid Strategy: to what extent and in what ways has assistance from foreign sources helped

Key Issues for Further Study:

  • More Government Support – a quantum leap in resource help is needed
  • Appropriate mix of small scale local initiatives and competitive trial-and-error process
  • Extensive R&D needed for the needs of rural places – dynamic interactions needed between local self-help efforts and scientific and technological resources from the industrial sector
  • Further innovative arrangements are needed to channel any jump in aid resources to spur local innovation, because a lot of new ventures are emerging in a large number

Innovation and Openness

Vareska van de Vrande et al., “Open innovation in SMEs: Trends, motives and management challenges,” Technovation 29, no. 6-7 (2009): 423-437, doi:10.1016/j.technovation.2008.10.001.

This paper examines small- and medium-sized enterprises in the Netherlands. It looks at the motives and challenges that these companies face in implementing open innovation, and also the differences between small and medium enterprises, and service and manufacturing enterprises in their tendencies to adopt open innovation practices.

Thomas Kohler, Kurt Matzler, and Johann Füller, “Avatar-based innovation: Using virtual worlds for real-world innovation,” Technovation 29, no. 6-7 (2009): 395-407, doi:10.1016/j.technovation.2008.11.004.

An example of open innovation.

P. Craig Boardman and Branco L. Ponomariov, “University researchers working with private companies,” Technovation 29, no. 2 (February 2009): 142-153, doi:10.1016/j.technovation.2008.03.008.

May be of interest in examining IP laws and universities.

Koen Dittrich and Geert Duysters, “Networking as a Means to Strategy Change: The Case of Open Innovation in Mobile TelephonyJournal of Product Innovation Management 24, no. 6 (2007): 510-521, doi:10.1111/j.1540-5885.2007.00268.x.

Open innovation at Nokia is examined.

Keld Laursen and Ammon Salter, “Open for innovation: the role of openness in explaining innovation performance among U.K. manufacturing firms,” Strategic Management Journal 27, no. 2 (2006): 131-150, doi:10.1002/smj.507.

A paper which follows Chesborough's idea of open innovation and profiles firms in the UK which use this business technique.

Nikolaus Thumm, “[ Patents for genetic inventions: a tool to promote technological advance or a limitation for upstream inventions?',” Technovation 25, no. 12 (December 2005): 1410-1417, doi:10.1016/j.technovation.2004.07.009.

This paper investigates when patents help and when they hinder technology development, specifically in the biotechnology industry. The article surveys 53 biotech companies in Switzerland to examine their challenges with patents regarding DNA. They bring up the challenges of anti-commons, patent thickets and royalty stacking and propose different solutions, such as partnerships, licensing, patent pools, and basic research exemptions, with the latter being most popular with the companies surveyed. It goes on to provide policy recommendations for patenting in Switzerland and also in Europe in general.

Yochai Benkler, "Intellectual Property: Commons-Based Strategies and the Problems of Patents,” Science 305, no. 5687 (August 20, 2004): 1110-1111, doi:10.1126/science.1100526.

This paper discusses intellectual property issues and innovation. Patent laws do not always increase innovation, and sometimes hinder it, for example through the tragedy of anti-commons. It gives a number of examples of commons-based production of innovation, including:

The paper then proposes two things:

  1. Universities should not patent their IP. The revenue received from patents is an order of magnitude smaller than revenues received from government grants at universities in the United States. Universities should use licenses like an Open Research License (ORL) or a Developing Country License (DCL) in order to provide other researchers and students access to information, avoid anti-commons, but still allow companies to make profits.
  2. Peer production could be used in universities. There are some aspects of research that could be modulated into smaller, low-intensity sections so that many researchers could participate with low commitment levels.


  • Commons-based production: “no one uses exclusive rights to organize effort or capture its value, and cooperation is achieved through social mechanisms”

Richard C. Atkinson et al., “INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS: Public Sector Collaboration for Agricultural IP Management,” Science 301, no. 5630 (July 11, 2003): 174-175, doi:10.1126/science.1085553.

Discusses IP in the agricultural sector, and highlights the success of open source IP in that sector.

Jean Tirole, Marcin Strojwas, and Josh Lerner, “Cooperative Marketing Agreements Between Competitors: Evidence from Patent Pools,” NBER Working Paper, no. W9680 (May 2003),

Chesbrough, Henry W “The Era of Open Innovation,MIT Sloan Management Review 44, no. 2 (Spring 2003): 35-41.

This article describes a shift in innovation models from closed to open, and describes exactly with the open model is and how it is different from traditional models. The closed innovation models has been used for most of the 20th century, where big firms such at Dupont or AT&T dominate their field by having very large and well-funded research and development (R&D) departments. However, there is now a shift to have a more open model of innovation, where ideas come internally and externally, through licensing options and joint ventures. This shift is said to be due to the increased mobility of labourers and availability of venture capital (VC).

The following is an in-depth description of the way that innovation is managed in the open innovation model:

  • Funding innovation
    • Innovation benefactor fund basic research
    • Innovation investors fund mainstream research and move research from corporations or universities to the market.
  • Generating innovation
    • Explorers: making discoveries in research (innovate for innovation’s sake)
    • Merchants: innovate for commercial interest, value is determined by their IP portfolios
    • Architects: they devise and support systems that allow networks of innovations to intertwine.
      • Nokia partnered with other groups (sometimes competitors) and licensing its research to others in order to develop their GSM chips
    • Missionaries: advance innovation to serve a cause
  • Commercializing innovation
    • Marketors: people who market their own and other people’s ideas
    • One-stop-shop centres"": market ideas but also allow people to bring innovations together (like Yahoo, for example)


  • Closed innovation: “companies must generate their own ideas that they would then develop, market, distribute and service themselves”
  • Open innovation:“firms commercialize external and internal ideas by exploring outside pathways to market”

Eric von Hippel and Georg von Krogh, “Open Source Software and the "Private-Collective" Innovation Model: Issues for Organization Science,” Organization Science 14, no. 2 (April 2003): 209-223, doi:10.2307/4135161.

Eric vonHippel and Ralph Katz, “[ Shifting innovation to users via toolkits',” Management Science 48, no. 7 (July 2002): 821.

Brian Bruns, “Open sourcing nanotoechnology research and development: issues and opportunities,” Nanotechnology 12 (2001): 198-210.

This is an excellent paper examining the viability of open source design in the nanotech industry. Important things to learn from the open source software (OSS) successes are the bazaar-style design process, as well as the gift-culture created. Concerns regarding the tragedy of anti-commons provide reason to examine alternative research methods within nanotechnology. The paper discusses various licenses possible for nanotechnology and identifies this as an area where more research should be done. Various business models are highlighted, including the ‘’producer coalition’’, and reminds the reader that there are various levels of openness that firms could adopt depending on their business. A survey of the nanotech industry is done, and it is important to note that the many nanotechnology firms get funding from the US government, which favours strong IP and patenting laws.

Jeanne Clark et al., “Patent Pools: A Solution to the Problem of Access in Biotechnology Patents?” (United States Patent and Trademark Office, December 5, 2000),

This paper goes through the history of patent pools in the United States since 1900. It highlights the strengths of patent pools, which are that they avoid patent 'stacking' to allow for more innovation, decrease litigation costs, reduce risks for all companies involved, and provides access to information to companies involved. However, risks include inflation of competitive goods, shielding of invalid patents, and elimination of competition.

Adam B. Jaffe, “The U.S. patent system in transition: policy innovation and the innovation process,” Research Policy 29, no. 4-5 (April 2000): 531-557, doi:10.1016/S0048-7333(99)00088-8.

This paper is a very thorough examination of the the US patent system over the last 50 years. The trend since the 1980s has been to create stronger and more restrictive patent laws. There has also been a steady increase in the number of patents applied for and granted. Of important to this subject is the observation that at universities, unlike most other bodies that seek out patents for research, the increase in patents has resulted in a decrease in patent quality, measured by the number of times that a patent at a university was cited in more recent patent. This is likely because university research is often not in a state ready to be commercialized, and firms will not commercialize without exclusive rights over the innovation.

Michael Kremer, “Patent Buyouts: A Mechanism for Encouraging Innovation,” Quarterly Journal of Economics 113, no. 4 (November 1, 1998): 1137-1167, doi:10.1162/003355398555865.

A type of government-sponsored innovation - the government would buy unused patents from large firms and auction them off to others.

Michael A. Heller and Rebecca S. Eisenberg, “Can Patents Deter Innovation? The Anticommons in Biomedical Research,” Science 280, no. 5364 (May 1, 1998): 698-701, doi:10.1126/science.280.5364.698.

Interesting example of the patent system inhibiting innovation.

Elhanan Helpman, “Innovation, Imitation, and Intellectual Property Rights,” Econometrica 61, no. 6 (November 1993): 1247-1280, doi:10.2307/2951642.

Examines intellectual property rights and their effects on innovation in the global North and South.

Murcott, Susan. "Co-evolutionary design for development: influences shaping engineering design and implementation in Nepal and the global village"., Journal of International Development, Volume 19 Issue 1. P.123-144

This paper from MIT calls for a new generation of engineers, and the technologies they will invent and implement, to meet the basic human needs for security, broadly defined. The greatest threats to security for most people are not armed conflict but common good social and environmental challenges. Co-evolutionary engineering design for development begins with a relationship among partners in the global village, informed by on-the-ground realities out of which culture/environment/location-specific solutions emerge. This learning, iterative process among partners includes cooperation, local expertise, local resources and reliance on the global environment as a lab for knowledge-sharing and open-source innovation. This article describes the conceptual framework of co-evolutionary design for development and takes the reader through the 10-step cycle using, as a practical example, the design and implementation of an innovative arsenic and microbial remediation filter for households in rural Nepal.

Nitin Sawhney et all., ThinkCycle at M.I.T. "Sharing Distributed Design Knowledge for Open Collaborative Design", TechKnowLogia, January- March 2002

This paper discusses a student run initiative ThinkCycle from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that seeks to raise awareness, develop design pedagogy and collaborative tools to address critical design challenges by working closely with universities and organizations worldwide. It explains the ThinkCycle initiative and topics, their framework and design approach, and touches on related online initiatives as well as ongoing open research questions.

Knowledge Commons and Open Access

Understanding Knowledge as a Commons: From Theory to Practice. Edited by Charlotte Hess and Elinor Ostrom. MIT Press Cambridge: MA, 2007. Hardcover

Introduction by Hess and Ostrom: An Overview of Knowledge Commons This book provides essential overview of main themes dealing with open access, open source, knowledge commons and knowledge sharing. Contains 12 essays from various authors on three main sub-sections:

I. Studying the Knowledge Commons
II. Protecting the Knowledge Commons
III. Building New Knowledge Commons

Detailed Chapter contents and sample chapters: "MIT press website"

Open Source

Clive Thompson, “Build It. Share It. Profit. Can Open Source Hardware Work?,” Wired Magazine, October 10, 2008,

This article describes the open hardware business model and gives many examples of companies that are currently open sourcing their technologies. The many justifications for open-sourcing hardware include that hardware is able to be reverse engineered so easily that all hardware is virtually open source, and that costs are reduced significantly for the company because there are so many users adding input to the product. Two business models that are used are: *Service model: while units are sold, the majority of the profits are made through the selling of the services that no one but inventor could provide. *Compete: Understand that the products could be sold elsewhere for less, but try to stay ahead of the game. This works when the devices produced en masse in China are not the same quality that the inventor can provide. These models often work because when one opens the designs to a device, that person receives much acclaim in the hacker world. Other times, the inventor doesn’t care about making a profit, for example David Rowe, who wants his telephone routers to be made cheaply for the developing world. Examples of open source companies include: Name Product Why it works Arduino Circuit boards They sells their services; people wanting to develop products (device that tells you when to water your plant) contact them for consulting support. When improvements are made to their products by users, they learn about them and change they product accordingly. Also, their product got a lot of free advertising by being open source (within the OS community, of course). VIA Lap tops WRT54G Wireless routers They are based on Linux, so hackers could make improvement on the device, increasing its value greatly, and thus the product could be improved and resold. David Rowe Telephone routers He actually wants firms in China to mass reproduce his product so that the cheapest possible router can be sold to the developing world. He was able to make improvements very quickly because he connected with other hackers online, thus decreasing R&D time and cost. Other interesting examples include IMB paying workers to contribute to Linux debugging; according to a prof at MIT, this model could be used to allow open source cars to be developed

Richard Doyle, Erick Froede,David Saint John,Richard Devon, Understanding Open Source Design: A White Paper, In the Beginning Was the Noösphere: Community and Collaboration in Open Source Evolution of Technology, ASEE Proceedings, 2010.

Niels C. Taubert, “Balancing Requirements of Decision and Action: Decision-Making and Implementation in Free/Open Source Software Projects,” Science, Technology & Innovation Studies 4, no. 1 (July 2008): 69-88.

Timo Pykäläinen, “Model for profiting from software innovations in the new era in computing,” Technovation 27, no. 4 (April 2007): 179-193, doi:10.1016/j.technovation.2006.11.005.

The paper approaches the subject of open source software (OSS) from a slightly different perspective – it compares open and closed business models and examines the way companies go about profiting in these scenarios. It includes a very extensive literature review of innovation in business. It also includes a new model: a 3x3x3 matrix describing the relationships between technology, ideology and complementary assets.

Dell Nagy, Areej M. Yassin and Anol1 Bhattacherjee. 2010. Organizational adoption of open source software: Barriers and remedies. Communications of the ACM. vol.53 iss.3 pg.148 -151


The article discusses barriers to greater adoption by firms of open-source software, and ways of surmounting those barriers. Barriers identified are: knowledge/ awareness, Legacy integration, Forking, Sunk costs and Technological immaturity. In some instances firms aren't aware that open-source options exist for their software needs. Perceptions of steep learning curves for open-source products can sometimes discourage a company, as can the existence of mission-critical, legacy software that open-source applications may not be compatible with. The Web site provides an updated archive of open-source applications. Technology such as eXtensible markup language (XML) can be used to integrate legacy programs with open-source ones.

Krishnamurthy, Sandeep,An Analysis of Open Source Business Models. MAKING SENSE OF THE BAZAAR: PERSPECTIVES ON OPEN SOURCE AND FREE SOFTWARE, Joseph Feller, Brian Fitzgerald, Scott Hissam and Karim Lakhani, eds., MIT Press, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN:

Andrea Bonaccorsi and Cristina Rossi, “Why Open Source software can succeed,” Research Policy 32, no. 7 (July 2003): 1243-1258, doi:10.1016/S0048-7333(03)00051-9.

Open software succeeds because of the behaviors of those involved in the project developments, and because of the unique licensing that it used. Developers are a part of the hacker culture, enjoy the creative process of development, receive benefits from being known as the person to debug certain problems, benefit socially from being a part of a community, and some support the ideologies of open source software itself. The authors investigate the leadership patterns that occur within the community, and propose that the compartmentability of software allows for multiple groups to focus on certain sections and maintain uniformity throughout the project.

Mikko Mustonen, “Copyleft--the economics of Linux and other open source software,” Information Economics and Policy 15, no. 1 (March 2003): 99-121, doi:10.1016/S0167-6245(02)00090-2.

Lakhani, Karim R, Hippel, Eric von. “How open source software works: “free” user-to-user assistance” Research Policy 32, pg 923-943, 2003.

This paper explored the online help community of Apache in order to determine why users completed “mundane-but-necessary” tasks associated with open-source technology. The authors conducted a survey and examined usage of the Apache website between 1996 and 2000. They concluded that 98% of users feel satisfied with their use of the site because they learn by reading other people’s problems and how they were solved. Other motivations for participating on the site include reciprocating help received previously, improving reputation, and enhancing the open-source software community. It was found that the amount of time users invested in the site was 9 times less than the amount of time that they saved from the learning they did on the site. In general, it was concluded that micro-studies of open-source systems would be useful to make general conclusions about open-source technologies.

Marit Hansen, Kristian Köhntopp, and Andreas Pfitzmann, “The Open Source approach -- opportunities and limitations with respect to security and privacy,” Computers & Security 21, no. 5 (October 1, 2002): 461-471, doi:10.1016/S0167-4048(02)00516-3.

Eric A. Von Hippel, “Open Source Projects as Horizontal Innovation Networks - By and For Users,” SSRN eLibrary (June 2002),

Audris Mockus, Roy T. Fielding, and James D. Herbsleb, “Two case studies of open source software development: Apache and Mozilla,” ACM Trans. Softw. Eng. Methodol. 11, no. 3 (2002): 309-346, doi:10.1145/567793.567795.

Magnus Bergquist and Jan Ljungberg, "The power of gifts: organizing social relationships in open source communities",Information Systems Journal 11, no. 4 (2001): 305-320.

Abstract: This paper describes the gift-giving culture as one that is derived from a culture of abundance, whereas a culture of scarcity results in a culture of exchange, where power is the measure of what you hoard, not what you give away. It examines closely the gift-giving culture of open-source communities (Linux), and gives examples of the complex social relationships that exist within them. It then goes on to draw parallels between this culture and that of the academic community. In the scientific, academic community, scientists are rewarded for their work using the peer review system.

M Krummenacker, “Problems with the Current Intellectual Pseudo 'Property' (IPP) System, Especially patents,” 2000,

An article about problems that patents can cause. Includes interesting ideas about 'innovation sponsorship' (similar to producer coalitions, from Bruns).

F.Hecker,“Setting up shop: The business of open-source software,” Software,IEEE 16, no. 1 (1999): 45-51, doi:10.1109/52.744568.

A very practical guide to any software business interested in open source strategies.

Patrick Y. K. Chau and Kar Yan Tam, “Factors Affecting the Adoption of Open Systems: An Exploratory Study,” MIS Quarterly 21, no. 1 (March 1997): 1-24, doi:10.2307/249740.

This paper examines if and how open source design methods have been adopted in the organizational computing industry.

Eric Raymond, “The cathedral and the bazaar,” Knowledge, Technology & Policy 12, no. 3 (1999): 23-49, doi:10.1007/s12130-999-1026-0.

A cornerstone in literature surrounding open source software. The cathedral development method is the current method of software development, which is very hierarchical and a top-down approach. The bazaar method, that of the open source software movements, is collaborative, grass-roots, and takes a very flat structure. Raymond examines this method through describing his own software development project and shares lessons learned about open software development.

Raghu Garud and Arun Kumaraswamy, “Changing Competitive Dynamics in Network Industries: An Exploration of Sun Microsystems' Open Systems Strategy,” Strategic Management Journal 14, no. 5 (July 1993): 351-369, doi:10.2307/2486822.

Discusses the ability for Sun Microsystems to succeed in the computer system industry, and how they were able to maintain a competitive edge while sharing technical knowledge.

Ebert, Christof,. "Open Source Drives Innovation" IEEE Computer Society Press, May- June 2007, Volume 24, Issue 3.

This paper briefly outlines success and improvements of free and open source software where engineers using free and open source software (FOSS) have created many innovative products and solutions facilitating competition and open markets as well as innovation to meet new challenges (examples: Linux, MySQL, Apache, and Eclipse). It also offers a graph of technology innovation and process innovation, as well as guidelines for practitioners: criteria, budget, awareness, legal exposure, distribution and etc.

Fadi P. Deek and James A.M. McHugh, Open Source: Technology and Policy. Cambridge University Press, 2008, pp 335 (Hardcover)


  • Open Source Internet Application Projects
  • The Open Source Platform
  • Technologies Underlying Open Source Development
  • Demographics, Sociology and Psychology of Open Source Development
  • Legal Issues in Open Source
  • The Economics of Open Source
  • The GNU Project
  • Open Source in the Public Sector
  • The Future of the Open Source Movement

Internet and digital economics: Principles, Methods and Applications.edited by Eric Brousseau and Nicolas Curien. Cambridge University Press, 2007. (Hardcover)

Essays of interest:

  • Information Goods and Online Communities- Michael Gensollen
  • Online consumer Communities: Escaping the Tragedy of the Digital Commons - Nicolas Curien et al
  • Pricing Information Goods: free vs pay content- Marc Burreau and Virginie Lethiais
  • Open software : knowledge openness and cooperation in cyberspace - Dominique Foray et al
  • Network cooperation and incentives within online communities -  Godefroy Dang Nguyen and Thierry Penard
  • Simulating code growth in Libre (open source) mode - Jean-Michel Dalle and Paul A. David
  • Mobile Telephony and Internet Growth: Impacts on Consumer Welfare - Gary Madden et al

Robert J. Thomas. What Machines Can't Do: Politics and Technology in the Industrial Enterprise. University of California Press. 1994 (Hardcover)

Abstract provided by University of California Press

Robert J. Thomas argues that smart machines may not hold the key to an industrial renaissance. In this provocative and enlightening book, he takes us inside four successful manufacturing enterprises to reveal the social and political dynamics that are an integral part of new production technology. His interviews with nearly 300 individuals, from top corporate executives to engineers to workers and union representatives, give his study particular credibility and offer surprising insights into the organizational power struggles that determine the form and performance of new technologies.

Thomas urges managers not to put blind hopes into smarter machines but to find smarter ways to organize people. As U.S. companies battle for survival in an era of growing global competition, What Machines Can't Do is an invaluable treatise on the ways we organize work. While its call for change is likely to be controversial, it will also attract anyone who wishes to understand the full impact of new technology on jobs, organizations, and the future of the industrial enterprise.

Watson, Tom. Causewired: Plugging in Getting Involved, Changing the World. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2009 (Hardcover)

Chapter 1: Lost in the Flood: Wired Causes Rise

Chapter 2: Friending for Good: The Facebook Philanthropists

Chapter 3: Signing up to Fight Evil: The Network Acts

Chapter 4: Portfolios for Change: Peer to Peer Philanthropy

Chapter 5: Defi ned by Causes: The Public Lives of Millennials

Chapter 6: From the Bottom Up: The Order Is Rapidly Fading

Chapter 7: Spare the Paperwork: The Quick Rise of Flash Causes

Chapter 8: Heralds of Change: Giving Goes Open Source

Chapter 9: Aspiration and Activism: Armies of Online Leaders

Chapter 10: Distributing the CauseWired Future Related Websites Further Reading.

Open Source Appropriate Technology

The Case for Open Source Appropriate Technology

Source and full text: Joshua M. Pearce, “The Case for Open Source Appropriate Technology”, Environment, Development and Sustainability 14, pp. 425–431 (2012).

  • Abstract:Much of the widespread poverty, environmental desecration, and waste of human life seen around the globe could be prevented by known (to humanity as a whole) technologies, many of which are simply not available to those that need it. This lack of access to critical information for sustainable development is directly responsible for a morally and ethically unacceptable level of human suffering and death. A solution to this general problem is the concept of open source appropriate technology or OSAT, which refers to technologies that provide for sustainable development while being designed in the same fashion as free and open-source software. OSAT is made up of technologies that are easily and economically utilized from readily available resources by local communities to meet their needs and must meet the boundary conditions set by environmental, cultural, economic, and educational resource constraints of the local community. This paper explores both the open source and appropriate technology aspects of OSAT to create a paradigm, in which anyone can both learn how to make and use needed technologies free of IP concerns. At the same time anyone can also add to the collective open source knowledge ecosystem or knowledge commons by contributing ideas, designs, observations, experimental data, deployment logs, etc. It is argued that if OSAT continues to grow and takes hold globally creating a vibrant virtual community to share technology plans and experiences, a new technological revolution, built on a dispersed network of innovators working together to create a just sustainable world is possible.

Leveraging Information Technology, Social Entrepreneurship and Global Collaboration for Just Sustainable Development

Source: Joshua M. Pearce, Lonny Grafman, Thomas Colledge, and Ryan Legg, "Leveraging Information Technology, Social Entrepreneurship and Global Collaboration for Just Sustainable Development" Proceedings of the 12th Annual National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance Conference, pp. 201- 210, 2008.

This paper proposes the idea of an online Open Sustainability Network (OSN) that brings together people, ideas and resources regarding sustainable development from businesses, not-for-profit organizations, researchers, students, individuals and communities. It provides many examples of Web 2.0 functions that are related to sustainable development and suggests frameworks that could be used to link these initiatives, through partnerships like interlinking, cross-posting or convergence. It then discusses businesses and social entrepreneurs, and how creating a mechanism to share learning, such as the OSN, could benefit social entrepreneurs. Lastly, the paper identifies journals, organizations and programs that facilitate service learning, which enhance students’ understanding of global issues, and proposes that they are a necessarily and valuable portion of the OSN.

Addressing Global Health Inequities: An Open Licensing Approach for University Innovations

Source: Amy Kapczynski et al., “Addressing Global Health Inequities: An Open Licensing Approach for University Innovations,” Berkley Technology Law Journal 20 (2005): 1031-1114.

Finding Cures for Tropical Diseases: Is Open Source an Answer?

Source: Stephen M. Maurer, Arti Rai, and Andrej Sali, "Finding Cures for Tropical Diseases: Is Open Source an Answer?", PLoS Medicine 1, no. 3 (December 2004): 183-186.

  • This paper says that the current models of encouraging pharmaceuticals to research and develop drugs curing tropical diseases that affects poor people aren’t working. These methods are 1)asking governments and NGOs to subsidize drugs rates for developed countries and 2) to create non-profit venture capital firms. It proposes an open-source model for developing these drugs through a website ( It describes how scientists could use chat pages and shared databases to make discoveries.
  • The payment of scientists working on this database would not be monetary, but scientists would gain stature and enhance their reputation, as is similar to the motivations of the hacker community. The drugs would not be patented in order to ensure that retail costs remained low. Companies and universities would allow their workers to volunteer, and would even donate databases and resources because the value of their IP lies in North American and European medicines.

Open Source as appropriate technology for global education

Source:Patrick Carmichael and Leslie Honour, “Open Source as appropriate technology for global education,” International Journal of Educational Development 22, no. 1 (January 2002): 47-53, doi:10.1016/S0738-0593(00)00077-8.

  • Open source software is examined as a mechanism to enhance and enrich education in developed and developing nations.

Open-Source Software Development and Distributed Innovation

Source: Bruce Kogut and Anca Metiu, “Open-Source Software Development and Distributed Innovation,” Oxford Review of Economic Policy 17, no. 2 (June 1, 2001): 248-264, doi:10.1093/oxrep/17.2.248.

  • Discusses open source software (OSS). Includes interesting discussion about the possibility of OSS being used in the developing world to enhance availability of technology.

Openness and the solar industry

John H. Barton, “Patenting and Access to Clean Energy Technologies in Developing Countries,” WIPO Magazine, March 2009,

The author discusses very briefly the possible effects of IP protection on renewables in Global South. He identifies the solar industry as one in which IP protection will not hinder development in Global South.

Chihiro Watanabe, Kouji Wakabayashi, and Toshinori Miyazawa, “Industrial dynamism and the creation of a "virtuous cycle" between R&D, market growth and price reduction: The case of photovoltaic power generation (PV) development in Japan,” Technovation 20, no. 6 (June 2000): 299-312, doi:10.1016/S0166-4972(99)00146-7.

Outlines the growth of the solar industry in Japan. It provides information about the number of patents Japanese firms filed between 1980 and 1995, and discusses the effect of patents on the industry.

James Rannels, “The DOE office of solar energy technologies' vision for advancing solar technologies in the new millennium,” Solar Energy 69, no. 5 (2000): 363-368, doi:10.1016/S0038-092X(00)00105-5.

This summary of the DOE's plan for solar energy briefly mentions the This Film Partnership as a program to forward the innovation of solar energy research, along with a number of other partnerships and programs.

Chihiro Watanabe, Youichirou S. Tsuji, and Charla Griffy-Brown, “Patent statistics: deciphering a 'real' versus a 'pseudo' proxy of innovation,” Technovation 21, no. 12 (December 2001): 783-790, doi:10.1016/S0166-4972(01)00025-6.

See also: