Open source allows users the freedom to control their technology while sharing knowledge and encouraging commerce through open exchange of designs. Open licenses contain a viral restriction and changing existing designs requires re-sharing the new design within the same license. This well-established method encourages rapid innovation and is regarded as a mainstay in software development.
The same concept is now used for physical products and the open-source technical development method is in exponential growth in hardware development. Millions of open-source products are shared by the global community from consumer goods to scientific and medical equipment. New digital manufacturing and recycling techniques enable individuals and communities to fabricate their own products for less than the price of purchasing them. This model has been proven to be effective for emergency manufacturing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This UNCTAD technical note was part of the work that an UNCTAD team undertook to contribute to the development of Resolution E/RES/2021/30 entitled “Open-source Technologies for Sustainable Development” adopted by the United Nations Economic and Social Council on 22 July 2021.