Public code for publicly financed international development cooperation

International development cooperation is increasingly digitised. Free Software thus is becoming a fundamental technology to reach the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. Together with experts in the field, the FSFE summarises these interrelations in one article and demands publicly funded software to be published as Free Software.

Open public policy analysis

Recent efforts by FSFE to write free software provisions into international development cooperation arrangements are to be commended (Albers et al 2020, Lück 2020).

Notwithstanding, I would like to highlight some issues not traversed by the FSFE or GIZ thus far: use of free software for public policy development, the application of same to the energy sector and to decarbonization policies more generally, and the need for well‑curated open data to underpin this analysis. These issues in the context of international development cooperation of course.

blogged about this topic about a year ago (Morrison 2019).

In the context of open energy system modeling, several model development projects now work collaboratively with partners in the global south — with two examples being OnSSET and OSeMOSYS.

By signing on to these kind of projects, analysts in the global south can not only access free software, they will also join a community that can assist with technology transfer and to which they can also contribute back in their own right.

The availability of open energy system data is also a defining issue. It is relatively pointless to push open software in isolation and I would hope that this new initiative from the FSFE would also encompass open information too. Moreover much of that data needs to be collected and cleansed — and these and related tasks are often better suited to communities of interest rather than official agencies.

Here is a small data point that indicates how this transfer can work. A recent online workshop on climate forecasting for energy analysis, jointly organized by the openmod and the S2S4E project, had an encouraging regional spread with about five participants (from circa 170 total) from least developed countries, namely Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Senegal, and Sudan.

Some in the open energy modeling community are also currently working on good practice protocols for the use of open source models and open data in public policy analysis (OPM and UK Aid 2019:7–8). More work is in the pipeline and should become public in 2021. Such analysis should be retrievable, repeatable, reconstructible, reproducible, interoperable, and auditable (the U4RIA principles).

The themes listed should improve recipient independence and promote the retention of knowledge across funding tranches — both are important objectives stressed by GIZ (Albers et al 2020).

To close, the concept of open public policy analysis has much to offer global southern countries and should be worked into this nascent campaign.

If the FSFE or GIZ would like to talk to the open energy modeling community, I would be happy to act as a personal bridge (noting that I have already tried to engage with GIZ on this theme without success).


Albers, Erik, Nico Lück, and Balthas Seibold (2020). Free software in international development cooperation. Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE). Berlin, Germany. Date inferred.

Lück, Nico (10 December 2020). Public code for publicly financed international development cooperation. Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE). Berlin, Germany.

Morrison, Robbie (20 November 2019). “An open energy system modeling community”. Generation R blog. Hannover, Germany: Leibniz Research Alliance Open Science. doi:10.25815/ff3b-d154. ISSN 2512-3815. Creative Commons CC‑BY‑4.0 license.

OPM and UK Aid (August 2019). Synthesis Report on the “Fourth Roundtable Discussion on Strategic Energy Planning” (Trieste 28 June 2019). United Kingdom: Oxford Policy Management and UK Aid.

Additional background

Here are two recent outreach videos that introduce energy system modeling of the type under discussion. These kind of models are also being extended in scope to include mobility, water usage, land use, and so forth under the umbrella of nexus modeling.

Thank you for this extensive contribution, @robbie.morrison!

Tagging @eal so he’s informed about this post.

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