One of the benefits of choosing open-source software is the opportunity it creates to lower the cost of subsequent development. Organizations that adopt open-source software merely need to customize existing code rather than build a new system from scratch, saving considerable time and money in the development process. The group that first commissioned the development benefits as well; as more organizations join the platform, these new users add functionality that can be adapted to update and improve the original platform.
The Lake Tahoe Info platform that Sitka continues to develop with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) is a great example of the cost saving potential of investing in open-source development. TRPA leads and coordinates the cooperative effort of more than 50 partnering agencies and organizations working to preserve and restore the Tahoe basin. Lake Tahoe Info provides a shared web-based platform with a common view of what’s happening in the basin, providing a starting point for richer collaboration, adaptive management, and regional decision making.
Today Lake Tahoe Info has a number of open-source modules and dashboards such as the Environmental Improvement Program (EIP) Project Tracker and Lake Clarity Crediting Program Stormwater Tools. TRPA chose to put an open-source license on these modules, making them freely available under a reciprocal license. Since making their creations open source, the EIP Project Tracker and Stormwater Tools platforms have been adopted by many different organizations, including the Puget Sound Partnership and Orange County.
TRPA continues to update and add new functionality to the Lake Tahoe Info platform, including integrating features in 2019 and 2020 that were reciprocally added to the open-source platform by other organizations.
- If the code was not open source, Sitka estimates that the “off the shelf” cost to develop these feature updates would have been $60,000
- The actual cost to TRPA was $30,000, yielding savings of $30,000
Because TRPA agreed to invest in open-source software, they have realized cost savings, and other groups have been able to benefit in turn from development work done on the Lake Tahoe Info platform. This cycle of mutual benefit from open-source software means that all the agencies involved are maximizing the impact of their public funding dollars, optimizing value for their communities and beyond.