Call for Papers: Open Source Software in the Public Sector
IEEE Software seeks submissions for this upcoming special issue.

Important Dates

  • Submissions Due: 1 December 2022
  • Publication: July/August 2023

Open Source Software (OSS) is today recognized as a pivotal building block in our common digital infrastructure. A vast majority of today’s software contains OSS, and the dependency on it in companies’ codebases has grown considerably in recent years. Within public sector organizations, however, the adoption of OSS has thus far been rather limited in comparison, yet is on the rise. A number of factors are driving public sector demand for OSS. Recent studies show that OSS adoption can bring a multitude of positive effects including economic growth, innovation, and competition. OSS has also been shown to bring benefits that are particularly salient in the public sector context, among them improved interoperability, transparency, and digital sovereignty.

In Europe, the importance of OSS for public sector transformation has recently been recognized both in joint Ministerial declarations and through the establishment of Open Source Program Offices, a function for promoting and enabling the use and sharing of OSS, on both the European and national levels. In Asia, notably in South Korea and China, OSS has already for some years featured strongly in industrial policy to support the competitiveness of the IT sector in those countries. In North America, the US government has long since established federal policies around the use and contribution to OSS. Today most notably in the wake of rising security and supply chain concerns for all forms of software, the current administration and federal agencies are discussing the role of OSS in security and seeking increased public-private partnership including discussions of reducing friction to enable broader participation in open source development and adoption. At the international level, interest in OSS can be noted among organizations such as the World Bank, World Health Organization, and the UN. Initiatives such as the Phoenix and GovStack are also starting to emerge to provide an OSS infrastructure for the public sector, both in industrialized and developing countries.

With this special issue, we want to focus on how public sector organizations can adopt, develop, and collaborate on OSS, explore the conditions for success, and consider how software engineering practices may need to be adapted to the public context.

We are interested both in the perspectives of public sector organizations, the industry, and the general OSS community, as knowledge, methods, and experience for how to develop and maintain OSS may to different extents be transferable, and in some cases in need of being tailored. Compared to the more investigated area of software engineering practices in the industry context, a number of additional factors need to be considered, including the more complex range of motivations and objectives compared with the private sector, missing technical capabilities, legally mandated constraints in the form of complicated procurement frameworks and practices, and limited or short-term policy incentives 

We invite both in-depth case studies, experience reports, and analytical contributions, aiming to shed light on this multifaceted topic, of how public sector organizations can adopt, develop, and collaborate on OSS. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to the areas of:

  • Public-Private Partnerships. Where and how the public sector and industry collaborates based on OSS to create new capabilities for the public sector while making the business case for the industry partner. 
  • Acquisition. How the public sector evaluates and compares the cost, value, and quality of and between OSS, and proprietary alternatives, and how they decide on and procure services or distributions related to or development and maintenance of OSS.
  • Sustainability. How the public sector identifies OSS projects that may be reliably built upon for increased odds of long-term sustainability, but also critical components that need sustaining efforts. Also, how the public sector contributes to the long-term sustainability of concerned OSS projects.
  • Economics. How the public sector’s adoption, development, and collaboration on OSS impact economies, competition on tenders, growth of SMEs, in-house skills, capabilities, ways of working, engagement with civil society and citizen participation, quality of public services, and society at large (may include meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals).
  • Avoiding lock-in. How the public sector leverages, develops, and collaborates on OSS to avoid various types of lock-in, enable interoperability between services, and preserve long-term access, integrity, security, control, and ownership of data held in the public interest.
  • Overcoming challenges unique to the public sector. What challenges, governmental processes, or prescribed methods for adoption, or investment were overcome or changed (and how) to adopt, develop, or contribute to a given OSS project. May include overcoming common misconceptions or concerns, e.g., related to policy, legal, ethical, and cultural aspects.

Submission Guidelines

For author information and guidelines on submission criteria, please visit the Software’s Author Information page. Please submit papers through the ScholarOne system, and be sure to select the special issue name. Manuscripts should not be published or currently submitted for publication elsewhere. Please submit only full papers intended for review, not abstracts, to the ScholarOne portal.


Please contact the guest editors at

Guest Editors:

  • Johan Linåker, RISE Research Institutes of Sweden, Sweden 
  • Gregorio Robles Universidad Rey Juan Carlos g
  • Sachiko Muto OpenForum Europe 
  • Deborah Bryant Board Director Emeritus, Open Source Initiative; former head of Open Source 


Call for Papers: Open Source Software in the Public Sector
1 December 2022