Monday, 10 March 2008 18:12

Open Source professionals higher skills, higher paid: survey

A new survey of companies and individuals supplying Open Source solutions and services claims to show that Open Source IT professionals make more money than their proprietary IT counterparts because they're more highly skilled.

The Australian survey, Open Source census 2007, funded by IBM and Fujitsu, was conducted by Open Source strategic consulting firm Waugh Partners under the guidance of NICTA (National ICT Australia). The survey sample included 327 individuals working on Australian Open Source projects in Australia and abroad, as well as 129 companies providing Open Source services. The Open Source census 2007 is claimed to be the first national research project to study companies and contributors involved in the Australian Open Source industry.

According to Waugh Partners co-proprietor Jeff Waugh, individuals who are doing Open Source work on their own time or who are getting paid for it - tend to earn more than others in the IT industry.

"The median wage for Open Source workers is greater," says Waugh. "Those who are working full time on Open Source tend to earn quite a bit more indeed."

So why are Open Source workers getting paid more?

"Generally, they are more skilled and they are doing things that more deeply technical," says Waugh. "Their experience of the Open Source community provides them with a much deeper, more practical education than others might get.

"In the average computing science degree, you generally learn about writing software but you very rarely learn about reading source code. This has been a problem for a long time now, The industry really wants people who can do the most important part of practical software development which is reading other people's source code and modifying it rather than writing it from scratch.


"Things like that you tend to learn better from the Open Source community in a very practical sense that aren't being provided by the universities. So all of these companies are looking at people coming out of the universities and people coming out of the Open Source communities and finding it much easier to employ someone from the Open Source community who has that practical experience and has exposed that experience online. When you hire people from university and the proprietary software world you never get to see what they've done."

According to Waugh, the research from the survey indicates that there is a clear gap in the IT education system.

"We did quite a bit about education from both sides - the kind of education that the industry is interested in and the education that people in the community have. Folks in the community generally regarded the most important education as being their participation in a community rather than the other places they learned such as university. Right now in the industry, there is more value placed on employees who have already participated in the Open Source world and also who have worked for Open Source companies previously. It shows that there is a gap in the education provided to get people going in the industry."

So what were the hot Open Source areas being worked on?

"Web technologies had a very high showing in terms where companies were making their money," says Waugh. "People were doing things built on Java, Rails, PHP and so on. Platforms and web technologies figured very highly. There were also people doing Open Source software for embedded applications."

Waugh says that almost all of the companies surveyed in the Open Source census 2007 make their money from a classic Open Source services model - software development, customisation, implementation, migration, support and maintenance. 46% of the survey respondents took 70% or more of their revenue from Open Source activities.

The survey, which will be freely available, is slated to be released as a downloadable PDF on the evening of April 1.

According to Waugh Partners, the research provides insights into:

    * Understanding innovation and R & D in Open Source - the flow on benefits and opportunity for Australia
    * Skills identification, development, demand, and careers
    * Revenue generation and business models
    * Industry and community relationship and metrics
    * Organisations and projects in Australia.


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Stan Beer


Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.



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