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While overall participation in open source declined in 2020, 63% of those who actively participated reported an increase in their activity, according to DigitalOcean’s Currents Open Source report.

Among those respondents, 29% said they had “more free time,” 28% wanted to “use the time to learn,” and 15% were “adamant about contributing to a cause they cared about.”

The new report, which surveyed developers and entrepreneurs on the latest trends in technology, highlights participation shifts, economic impacts, and other social constructs behind open source communities.

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Participation trends differed based on geographic region and age. APAC had the largest increase in overall participation at 51% of respondents, while developers in the US (44%), UK (43%), and Canada (42%) said their participation remained unchanged in light of the pandemic, according to the report.

The survey revealed the role that open source played in the lives of its members in what was a year unlike any other and explored whether the core tenets of open source–”free” and “open”–still hold today.

“There’s no denying that technology played a major role in 2020. However, what we found most inspiring was how the individuals and community behind the code rose to the occasion,” said Raman Sharma, vice president of product and programs marketing at DigitalOcean, in a statement. “Our survey showed that developers dug deeper into the open source community, participating more actively and contributing to the causes that mattered to them most.”

How open source projected changed in 2020

The pandemic impacted the types of projects the open source community was involved in over the course of 2020. Many respondents also questioned the traditions of the past in favor of a more ethically accountable and economically sound ecosystem, Sharma added.

The report also found that respondents reported an increased focus on mental health (62% overall), inclusivity (57% overall), networking to help others find new jobs (51% overall), and mentoring to help others learn (50% overall).

For example, 29% are helping community members learn and develop their skills, while 17% are contributing to mission-oriented projects, such as ones focused on pandemic relief or social issues.

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There were some outliers based on geographic region, the report noted.

“APAC, which was hit hard by natural disasters including the Australian bush fires, flash flooding in Indonesia, and a cyclone in India and Bangladesh, reported significantly higher increases in the number of projects focused on environmental issues,” the report said.

Meanwhile, due to the US presidential election, respondents reported a greater increase in projects related to political issues than any other location, according to the report..

Free software, but those creating it want to be paid

Further, 54% said they feel that individuals should be paid for their work with open source but only 14% of respondents currently are paid for their open source contributions, according to the report.

However, developers in different age ranges vary on whether individuals should be paid for their contributions to open source, with those between the ages of 18-25 being overly in favor (60%), while only 34% of those above 55 years of age agreed.

Nearly half of respondents (47%) think tech companies should fund the payment of open source contributions, while a quarter (25%) thought project owners or individuals should pay, the report said.

Community inclusivity and code restrictions

The survey found 59% of respondents believe open source is inclusive to people of all demographics, experience levels, and locations.

However, respondents who are women, nonbinary, or caregivers reported lower levels of inclusivity.

Yet, 62% of men agreed or strongly agree that the community is inclusive, versus only 46% of women and 42% of nonbinary respondents feeling that way, the report said.

Fifty-four percent of caregivers agreed or strongly agree that the community is inclusive versus 64% of non-caregivers, according to the report.

While most individuals said they were against allowing restrictions for the use of open source code (47%), more than half of respondents wanted to allow restrictions (34%) or were undecided (19%).

Of the more than 9,500 developers surveyed, DigitalOcean said the report focused on the 4,440 responses of those who actively participated in open source throughout 2020.