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Who's using open-source software?

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Just 14% of Canada’s private sector firms reported using open-source software in 2006. ‘Open source’ means that the software’s source code—the instructions that make the application run—is in the public domain. Anyone can view, modify and redistribute the software without paying royalties or licensing fees; the code evolves through collaboration. Open-source software can be updated much more quickly than conventional commercial software, whose source code is proprietary, meaning it is not released to the public for use or modification.

The public sector adopts new ICTs more rapidly than the private sector does, and open-source software is no exception: 51% of public sector firms were using this software in 2006.

The private sector’s reluctance to adopt open-source software contrasts with its stronger connections to the Internet. In 2006, 45% of private firms purchased goods and services online, and 40% had a website.

Large private firms are more likely to use and be early adopters of advanced and innovative technologies: 34% of large firms used open-source software in 2006; only 13% of small firms did.

Firms using open-source software are seeing its benefits. In the past, concerns about stability and features prevented its widespread adoption. Today, open-source software enables firms to adapt quickly to their changing ICT needs.

Firms in information and cultural industries are most likely to use open-source software: 43% of them did so in 2006, as did 25% of utilities and educational services firms and 25% of professional, scientific and technical services firms.