Quality of Openness: Evaluating the Contributions of IDRC's Information and Networks Program to Open Development

January 16, 2015 by Katherine M. A. Reilly, Rob McMahon

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Open development is based on the premise that openly networked structures create the potential for people to collaborate in the production, organization and sharing of information in ways that can produce social, political and economic change. As a field of action and research, it emerges out of the work of people who, during the late 1990s and early 2000s, were actively exploring the relationship between digital network technologies and social change. IDRC has been an active participant in this space, and has contributed heavily to shaping the agenda around open development. This work emerges out of a lengthy history of IDRC research on information and communications technologies for development (Elder et al., 2013). As is well known, the information and communication technologies (ICTs) that IDRC has researched in developing country contexts for over 20 years have created massive upheaval in knowledge production, governance and business practices around the world (Benkler 2006). With this in mind, in the early 2000s, IDRC began to take up the work of people like Laurence Lessig (2007) and the free and open source software (FOSS) movement, and to collaborate with institutions like the Open Society Foundation and Shuttleworth Foundation, to do research on the role of copyright in harnessing and/or regulating the impacts of ICTs on social change processes.