Why Aren't 75% of American College Students Aware of Open Source (Specifically CS majors)

How Communities in USA support Open Source projects

From the perspective of a Mozilla Contributor/Volunteer

TOP 4 Open Source Contributions

1.         Campus Clubs

2.         Privacy and Web Literacy  

3.         Debugging/Remote Workers

4.         Team Project Management (IOT, Rust, Software Updates, etc.)

When are programmers or tech-ys or any other relevant parties introduced to “Open Source”?

Generally, in the USA, people are introduced to open source in college under computer science studies. However, they aren’t fully introduced to the concept of OS till they start their professional careers. Many local open source support groups are all older software developers or professionals working at large companies. I think this is pushed harder in the professional world because large companies are usually international and internationally the concept of open source is more imperative.

Open Source in Our Education System

Americans aren’t generally deprived or restricted access to many of the resources that we need so teachers and professors don’t push for their students to be exposed to open source. Of course restriction is not the only reason that someone would need open source resources but, it is a starting example.

I was personally introduced to open source, through Mozilla, my sophomore year of college. I was looking for a campus ambassador program that would help me build my engineering skills and I found the Mozilla Campus Clubs (previously known as Firefox Student Ambassadors). During this campaign, I learned about the many facets of open source and participated in some tech projects.

Open Source Contribution with Mozilla

Fast forward one year and I am now the Mozilla Reps North American Regional Coach, apart of the Campus Advisory Committee, and a Mozilla Tech Speaker. Through my volunteer work, I have learned so much about the importance of open source, the stigma around open source in my local area and around the US, the many resources available through Mozilla, and the many resources available through other open source focused organizations.

The Only Software Companies visible on Campus = Microsoft and Google

Mozilla has successfully promoted a free and open web to many universities around the world, except the US. There are many reasons and road blocks to explain this situation. From my perspective, Mozilla needs to invest an equal amount of resources that they invested in other areas around the world straight towards the US. It’s a large market and should be approached differently than you would Spain, India, Vietnam, etc.  

Where are the USA Open Source Organizations?

You can find groups of organizations in shared workspaces collaborating to push the open web, web literacy, internet of things, or some aspect of open source and a free/open web to the local community or a technically deprived sector of the local community.

There may be many other open source organizations out there that are doing the complete opposite but, this is what I’ve experienced so far. In addition to these small organizations, you have large corporations that require a focus on open source to function internationally or to accomplish large scale projects.

There are many hidden open source contributors around the USA that are fixing and finding bugs, working on localization, or building open source resources. However, these ninjas work remotely and usually keep their work within their virtual community.

Are You An Open Source Contributor?

In conclusion, your average American open source contributor either; 1. Works remotely 2. Is in a small organization geared towards minorities OR 3. Programmer at a large corporation.

I don’t mind that this blog post act as a call to action to rally the open source troops and prove me wrong. If you were wondering what does the open source world look like in the USA…. This is what I’ve found (... so far!).

Grammarly yours, Semirah D

keywords: open source, free and open web, software, Mozilla, firefox, student, campus ambassador, computer science major, FOSS, OS, redhat, grace hopper open source day

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