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The geography of Open Source Software: Evidence from GitHub

Open Source Software (OSS) plays an important role in the digital economy. Yet although software production is amenable to remote collaboration and its outputs are digital, software development seems to cluster geographically in places like Silicon Valley, London, or Berlin. And while OSS activity creates positive externalities which accrue locally through knowledge spillovers and information effects, up-to-date data on the geographic distribution of open source developers is limited. This presents a significant blindspot for policymakers, who often promote OSS at the national level as a cost-saving tool for public sector institutions.

We address this gap by geolocating more than half a million active contributors to GitHub in early 2021 at various spatial scales. Compared to results from 2010, we find a significant increase in the share of developers based in Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe, suggesting a more even spread of OSS developers globally. Within countries, however, we find significant concentration in regions, exceeding the concentration of high-tech employment. Social and economic development indicators predict at most half of regional variation in OSS activity in the EU, suggesting that clusters have idiosyncratic roots.

We argue for localized policies to support networks of OSS developers in cities and regions.


J. Wachs, M. Nitecki, W. Schueller, A. Polleres, The geography of Open Source Software: Evidence from GitHub, Technological Forecasting and Social Change 176 (2021) 121478

Johannes Wachs

Willliam Schueller © Verena Ahne

William Schueller

Axel Polleres

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