FWDThinking Episode 21: Public Digital and open source in government

Alistair Croll in conversation with Public Digital’s Emma Gawen and James Stewart.

Published On Oct 23, 2021

All opinions expressed in these episodes are personal and do not reflect the opinions of the organizations for which our guests work.


The world’s governments are the biggest buyers of information technology in the world. And unlike the private sector, where code is proprietary and software remains secret, many government functions are universal—so governments benefit from sharing and improving one another’s systems.

You might think this would drive aggressive Open Source adoption (to be clear, this doesn’t mean free software adoption, just adoption of software that can be read, and build upon, openly.) But that’s seldom the case, in part because the conditions in which open source can thrive are often lacking.

Emma Gawen and James Stewart are no strangers to government IT strategy. Having worked in both the public and private sectors, they’re now partners at digital consultancy Public Digital. Along with colleagues Emily Middleton, Angie Kenny, and Anna Hirschfeld (who will be taking the stage this November!) they’ve recently published a detailed report on how to create the conditions for successful open source deployment in government. We shared a link to the report in our July 22 newsletter, but wanted to learn more about why open source models succeed or fail.

In the interview above, we touched on striking a balance between open and proprietary solutions; the leadership approaches needed for open source to thrive, and debunking some of the myths of “free” software.

Notice at collection Your Privacy Choices