In the field of technological innovation, no single location stands out as much as Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley is widely seen as the center of the tech industry, and with good reason, as so many startups are founded in this region.
However, as TechRepublic contributor Matt Asay recently highlighted, there is at least one area of tech innovation that is not based in Silicon Valley: open source software development. He pointed out that open source development is a worldwide phenomenon, and consequently may hold the answer to a longstanding challenge for Silicon Valley-based companies.
Asay noted that according to a recent analysis of GitHub contributors, 76 percent of all open source development occurs outside of Silicon Valley. Primarily, these efforts can be found in Europe (31 percent) and elsewhere in the United States (25 percent), followed by the Asia-Pacific region (14 percent). The writer pointed out that Europe has long demonstrated an affinity for open source projects.
This number emphasizes a point that is often overlooked, according to Asay: There is a great amount of development talent living far away from Silicon Valley's tech giants and startups.
Asay went on to explain that, by its nature, open source development is well-suited for geographically diverse efforts.
"[O]ne of the cardinal tenets of open source is that it encourages developers to 'scratch their own itches,'" Asay wrote. "In other words, solve pressing problems that they may have, regardless of venture funding."
This mindset led to the creation of some of the most important open source projects in recent history, including Linux, Hadoop and Drupal. Asay emphasized that while venture capitalists eventually get involved in these efforts, they begin independently.
This need-based nature of many open source efforts and the fact that virtually any developer can initiate or contribute to such initiatives make it possible for these projects to flourish anywhere and at any time.
Furthermore, open source's growing popularity makes it an even more appealing technological area for many software developers. As numerous industry observers have argued, virtually every company in the world either currently or will soon rely on open source software for a variety of critical functions, including cybersecurity. The more firms depend on such resources, the more attention and financial support open source communities receive.
For example, major tech companies such as Google, Microsoft, IBM, VMware, Facebook and Amazon Web Services recently committed to providing significant funding for the Core Infrastructure Initiative, which is dedicated to supporting open source projects. These commitments came on the heels of the revelation of the Heartbleed vulnerability, which affected the widely used OpenSSL cryptographic library. This incident demonstrated to tech industry leaders, both in Silicon Valley and beyond, just how dependent on open source solutions they have become and how important open source will be for their businesses going forward.
Solving a Silicon Valley challenge
The widespread growth of open source development around the world may offer a solution for Silicon Valley companies that are competing for a limited pool of engineers, according to Asay. He noted that it is relatively easy for employers to evaluate developers' performance via code review and online interactions. Consequently, Silicon Valley firms looking for open source developer talent should consider embracing remote workers.
As of now, a number of major Silicon Valley companies resist remote work, instead looking exclusively for in-office talent. But as Asay pointed out, this significantly limits the available talent pool for such firms and, therefore, makes it difficult to meet their personnel needs. Looking outside Silicon Valley for employees can help these organizations improve their overall performance.