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97% of UK businesses use Open-Source software

Graph that shows the percentage of large, medium and small companies running open source software in their business (68% large companies, 88% medium companies and 91% small companies); and contributing to open source software (49% of large companies, 58% of medium companies and 69% of small companies).

OpenUK’s recent state of open reports has shown that the open-source underpins many of the UK companies, from large multinationals to micro-businesses. The UK's public sector has heavily adopted open-source (75%) and just over half have now developed policies that make open-source the preference (54%).

It's now common to see large and small companies contributing to many of the open-source projects (although the majority of the contributors are from smaller organisations).

OpenUK said:

"We found that 97% of businesses of different sizes in all sectors of the UK economy use open-source software technology. Although resources became a more pressing concern during the pandemic, 64% of businesses in our sample experienced business growth which translated into a high recruitment drive for roles relating to open-source software in the past 12 months (see recruitment findings). Further, we find that almost half of businesses surveyed (48%) are using open-source software more as digital adoption becomes embedded in organisational culture and business."

But where did it come from, and what is it now?

What's Open-Source? An extremely, extremely brief history

Before the Internet, even before home computers, people were using patents to protect IP such as the 2-cycle petrol engine with a patent that allowed a single organisation (Selden) to control the industry. This was challenged by Henry Ford who forced the creation of the Motor Vehicle Manufacturing Association, which instituted a cross-licensing agreement and allowed any of its members to use the patents. By the end of WW2, the association managed over 600 patents.

In the 1950s and 60s, almost all software was produced in academic institutions and was distributed in a very open and collaborative way. This led to the first open-source software, which led organisations like IBM to distribute their mainframes with the source code provided.

It was in the 1970s that there was a change in the software licensing model towards a decline in free software. Licensing for software began to become more complicated with increased restrictions and eventually, this led to Microsoft’s Bill Gates' “Open Letter to Hobbists”, where he condemned the sharing of Microsoft software.

Software companies began to ship the software without the source code in order to sell the software and make more revenue. At this point, the free software groups continued, such as SHARE and others, but the trend was moving towards closed software.

In 1883 the GNU Project began to create an open-source operating system and in 1991 Linux became a main stream operations system, along with the supporting software. With all this being provided for free, this was the starting point for developing many other organisations and licensing models.

This continued as a counterbalance to the growth of the closed-off software that was being produced by many of the larger providers.

What’s happening now?

Currently, open source has grown to become more than just a movement of free software and has grown to encompass Software, Hardware, and Data. It's grown to encompass openness in general, including also training material, legal contracts and many other non-technology areas.


This movement on a social level allows access to technology through free or inexpensive hardware and software, which means access to learning, information and the ability to engage with others by creating new opportunities for individuals.

There are also many examples of projects where the technology is now being used to positively affect the environmental or social problems, such as Open Climate Workbench, Pangea, Eco Hacker Farm and others.

For your business

The advantages to your business are many:

  • The power of community - faster time to market : Many open-source projects have a thriving community that works together to improve these solutions. They also create versions that focus on specific needs more effectively than internal teams or software providers
  • Transparency and no supplier lock-in:  Open-source code is provided with the source code available and has the ability to change it; this also means that a company is not locked into a single software provider
  • Lower software licensing costs
  • Freedom to do what you want with the software
  • Open standards that support collaborative development:  Gives a structure that is fixed to plan
  • Freedom to upgrade software as it suits your business: release cycles and updates are not forced

Working with CIVIC

We're an open-source company who provides solutions for our clients that make the best use of our joint understanding and the technology that's available. We also plan to allow for future growth with other teams in the future. Contact us and let's talk about the best way to improve your business with technology.