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Tech for Social Good // Research

Open source software in India, Kenya, Egypt, and Mexico

Click here to download the report in English

The Spanish and Arabic language report versions will be available later this year.

Report background

In 2020, we published our report on Open Source Software in the Social Sector, which covered tools that were conceived or driven in high-income countries, such as the United States. We’ve since focused our open source work on the digital public goods (DPGs), most of which are created and adopted to address challenges that low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) face. To ensure DPG sustainability and inclusive design, GitHub partnered with OBI Digital Solutions to look at OSS communities, initiatives, opportunities, and challenges in four LMICs:

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India

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Kenya

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Egypt

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Mexico

MozFest 2022

We presented early research findings at MozFest in March 2022. Watch the video below to learn more about the themes and country insights.

Key Themes


We explored five key themes in the research project. Read below to find out what each of these themes covered:


  • Community Drivers

    Building open source communities, social dynamics to participation, and global technology influencers

  • Language, Culture and Education

    OSS in high education, non-traditional education routes to OSS, spoken language and regional differences

  • Social Sector and Digital Public Goods

    Social sector challenges in using and producing OSS, where the social sector contributed to digital public goods

  • Government and Policies

    OSS governmental policies and government-adopted digital public goods

  • Sustainability and Finance

    Intellectual property, perceptions of OSS, foreign investments, (un)sustainable funding, and sustainability through community building

OSS drivers in each country

In each of the four countries we explored, OSS is used and produced across sectors: private, government / public, and social. However, there are clear sectoral drivers of OSS in each country:

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    India Corporations

  • 🇰🇪

    Kenya Social sector

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    Egypt Start-ups

  • 🇲🇽

    Mexico Civic participation

Insights by country and theme


Select one or all themes below to display insights for all or one of the four countries.

Country Insights: India

General Insights

  • OSS consumption was shaped by corporations. Startups, the government, and the social sector are also shaping OSS consumption and production.
  • Experts in all four countries recognized India as the most advanced with OSS.

Community Drivers

  • Diaspora and tech entrepreneur influence has shaped OSS in India, including leaders like Donald Lobo, founder of Project Tech4Dev, and Nandan Nilekani, co-founder of the EkStep Foundation.
  • Cross-border collaboration has increased employment opportunities in OSS.
  • Grassroot efforts to address societal issues, such as emergency healthcare, education, and women’s rights, have driven DPG contributions.

Language, Culture and Education

  • India has 22 official and many more unofficial languages. Most Indian social sector organizations conduct their work in local languages, which has led to a disconnect in OSS and other tech solutions written in English.
  • Some computer science students in India are taught OSS languages and frameworks, though usually not how to contribute and interact with OSS communities
  • The Girlscript Foundation is a strong example of non-traditional OSS education programs.
  • Private, global tech companies run student outreach programs in India, such as GitHub Education’s campus expert program and ThoughtWorks India STEP intern program.

Social Sector and Digital Public Goods (DPGs)

  • India is one of the biggest users of and contributors to DPGs among all LMICs.
  • Out of the four countries, Indian social sector organizations invest the most in OSS and other tech solutions.
  • MOSIP, Divoc, Sunbird, and Glific are four DPGs that were started or are heavily driven in India.
  • Codevelop.fund, Ek Step, and Project Tech4Dev are three Indian organizations that work on the DPGs.
  • In India, the monthly average contributions to DPGs on GitHub in the year 2020 were around 5,700 and in the year 2021, around 7,600.

Government and Policies

  • According to the report The State of FOSS in India, Indian national policies on open source exist on paper, though there is still more that can be done to strengthen implementation.
  • The Omidyar Network is working on how the Indian perspective on projects such as Linux and ICANN can be heard.
  • The Indian government is leveraging FOSS libraries for national ID systems, national tax systems, and open APIs.

Sustainability & Finance

  • India has some reliable funding mechanisms for building OSS.
  • Many social sector orgs are also looking to SaaS business models, private sector funds, and paid consultants for long term sustainability
  • Indian funders are also OSS ecosystem builders.

Country Insights: Kenya

General Insights

  • OSS consumption and production in Kenya were shaped by the social sector and startups, and social sector tech products and programs are commonly piloted in Kenya.

Community Drivers

  • The Gates Foundation and Omidyar are major OSS funders in Kenya.
  • Many Kenyan software developers start contributing to OSS later in their career than software developers in high-income countries.
  • Maintaining a presence on social media is more difficult and less emphasized for the average Kenyan OSS contributor compared to European OSS contributors.

Language, Culture and Education

  • The Tunapanda Institute in Kenya emphasizes OSS education in their programming modules. The Institute works in several locations throughout Kenya and hires native speakers of different languages in the country.
  • Student groups in Kenya drive OSS education.
  • The Python programming language and the ArcGIS community are popular among Kenyan students.

Social Sector and Digital Public Goods (DPGs)

  • In Kenya, the monthly average contributions to DPGs on GitHub in the year 2020 were around 560 and in the year 2021, around 630.
  • Some USAID healthcare activities in Kenya are requiring the use of DPGs or other OSS that align with the SDGs.
  • Medic is a global health tech company with a strong presence in Kenya, and has centered OSS in its tech solutions.

Government and Policies

  • The Kenyan National Plan for ICT explicitly recommends national government ministries and agencies use or produce open source tools.
  • OSS use greatly varies among Kenyan government ministries.

Sustainability & Finance

  • Weak patent protections and a scarcity mindset have made it difficult to enforce licenses in Kenya.
  • Most OSS for social sector work in Kenya is grant funded.
  • International development organizations have strongly influenced OSS adoption in Kenya, though not in a strategic way.

Country Insights: Egypt

General Insights

  • OSS consumption in Egypt was shaped by startups; however, many startups in Egypt have not confirmed if they are producing OSS.

Community Drivers

  • The Facebook group EgyptianGeeks has nearly 70,000 members and some posts from OSS influencer, Ahmed Alfy, have been viewed more than 50,000 times.
  • Creating OSS communities on larger social media platforms can be advantageous because user generated content and user interfaces across all devices are fully supported in Arabic.
  • Several global tech companies that have a strong OSS focus are increasing their hiring in Egypt.
  • Brain drain was a commonly cited challenge in Egypt.

Language, Culture and Education

  • There are cultural barriers to teaching OSS in Egypt.
  • Higher education programs in Egypt are highly standardized and slow to change, which can impact OSS education opportunities.
  • Bootcamps and online workshops are increasingly popular in Egypt.
  • The Arabic language has brought together Egyptian OSS software developers with others across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Social Sector and Digital Public Goods (DPGs)

  • In Egypt, the monthly average contributions to DPGs on GitHub in the year 2020 were around 180 and in the year 2021, around 60.
  • Some USAID healthcare activities in Egypt are requiring the use of DPGs or other OSS that align with the SDGs.
  • The Egyptian startup Farmtopia is trying to build OSS / DPGs on precision farming and IoT sensors.

Government and Policies

  • The Egyptian Ministry of ICT has previously announced a national strategy to support OSS use.
  • Egypt’s federal government has stringent data policies, which may have slowed down private sector support of OSS use and production.
  • The “Digital Egypt” initiative of the Ministry of ICT includes multiple projects that have used or produced OSS.

Sustainability & Finance

  • Securing copyright for code is effectively required for many Egyptian startups to secure funding from abroad.
  • Perceptions among computer science students in Egypt are changing in favor of OSS.
  • Egyptian technologists receive a lot of funding from Gulf nations and European development agencies like GIZ.

Country Insights: Mexico

General Insights

  • OSS consumption and production in Mexico were shaped by civic tech organizations and communities.

Community Drivers

  • CCOSS is an initiative that brings together software developers across Latin America to contribute to open source projects.
  • Technolatinas is an inclusive organization helping women technologists in Mexico.
  • Brain drain was a commonly cited challenge in Mexico.
  • Some Mexican software developers working in OSS moved back to Mexico during the COVID-19 pandemic due to better remote work opportunities.

Language, Culture and Education

  • The Spanish language has brought together Mexican OSS software developers with others across Latin America.
  • The Mozilla Foundation is working with Mexican software developers to translate the open source Firefox browser into indigenous languages that are in Mexico.
  • Higher education programs in Mexico are highly standardized and slow to change, which can delay increasing OSS education opportunities.

Social Sector and Digital Public Goods (DPGs)

  • In Mexico, the monthly average contributions to DPGs on GitHub in the year 2020 were around 180 and in the year 2021, around 240.
  • Most software developers in Mexico that want to “do good” are drawn to the civic tech space, which is why most DPG contributions in Mexico are aligned with SDG 16.

Government and Policies

  • The Mexican national government has some OSS policies and has invested in OSS implementations in the interest of government transparency.
  • There are more Mexican federal government policies around open data than OSS.
  • The National Digital Platform is one of the federal Mexican government’s most prominent examples of OSS being used for anti-corruption efforts.
  • Implementing OSS programs and policies in Mexican city-level governments is harder due to a lack of technical expertise.

Sustainability & Finance

  • SocialTIC is an organization in Mexico that supports tech needs of social impact organizations. Some of their work focuses on OSS.
  • International organizations and PDN, a government agency, fund most OSS work in the social sector in Mexico.
  • Most OSS for social sector work in Mexico is grant funded.