Thoughtworks joins DPGA: Impact, Influence, Inclusion
By: Vinod Sankaranarayanan, Head of Digital Public Goods, Thoughtworks
Thoughtworks has long been a pioneer in promoting and creating open source software. We are excited to join the Digital Public Goods Alliance and be part of a larger global network committed to advancing high-quality open source digital solutions.
Since our founding over 28 years ago, our contributions to diversity, equity, inclusion, sustainability and social change are also very well known. So it’s no surprise that we found common purpose when we were able to marry our passion for open source software with public goods. Even though the term digital public goods itself was born in 2017, Thoughtworks was already deeply invested in this space.
Public goods are goods or services that are provided, without profit, to all members of a society, either by the government or by a private individual or organization. Typical examples of public goods are public order, roads and, in many countries, public health. As an extension of the same, one can see the relevance of digital public goods as a basis on which countries progress.
DPGs are directly tied to Thoughtworks’ purpose: to create extraordinary impact through our technological excellence and culture.
We believe investing in digital public goods allows us to have impact at scale, influence the future, and drive equity and inclusion through the use of deep technology.
Digital public goods, given their relevance in citizen services across multiple geographies, truly reflect Thoughtworks’ commitment to social change, globally.
Our contributions to Digital Public Goods
One of our biggest and proudest contributions to this space has been Bahmni. An open-source hospital information management system (HIMS), Bahmni operates today in more than 500 clinics across 50 countries. It is the first open-source HIMS product to have passed India’s rigorous NDHM certification and is being explored by various states in the country for implementation. Bahmni was recognized as a digital public good in 2021.
Behind the scenes, our Engineering for Research (e4rTM) practice has made significant progress in partnership with Ashoka University and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on BharatSIM (a DPG Nominee), an agent-based simulation model that has enabled to consider the spread of COVID 19 in India and develop policy interventions. In parallel, we worked on Epirust, a framework for modeling epidemics in large-scale cities on simple hardware such as laptops – explore the details here.
While technology can support progress on global health issues, there are still millions of people who have no access to technology, excluding them from related health and civic services. We believe there is a great opportunity to use deep technology and bridge the digital divide that has arisen. To this end, the work we are doing with EkStep on Vakyaansh – promoting open source Speech to Text in Indian languages, will open up the digital world to non-English speaking and illiterate people around the world. These technologies will now allow everyone to engage with digital content, but also to transact and contribute to the digital world without being limited by language or literary barriers. This can potentially bring 6.4 billion people – non-English speakers – onto the same digital platform. Vakyaansh sits on Sunbird, which is a digital public good.
We also see huge opportunities to advance the United Nations Global Development Goals using digital public goods. For example, digital public goods are a great way for governments to set up the GovStack and quickly launch services to citizens.
The first group of government-initiated digital assets are starting to be open source. We recently saw the Cowin platform being open sourced by the Indian government. Thoughtworks works closely with another government entity and helps them open a payment platform.
DPGs have the environment as well as society in mind. If the internet were a country, it would be the sixth largest carbon emitter, so the tech industry has a big impact to manage. To help companies reduce their carbon footprint, we have developed an open source tool Cloud Carbon Footprint – also nominated by DPG. The calculator provides visibility and tools to measure and monitor cloud usage data and help teams achieve carbon savings. It also estimates cloud emissions and provides recommendations to reduce carbon and costs.
Our primary approach to social change is to amplify the impacts of organizations on the frontlines of issues; in terms of decarbonization, an example is the development of openCEM: a free tool for modeling the energy market in Australia. OpenCEM demonstrates how an advanced industrial economy can reliably run on renewables and energy storage (a 2019-2020 project).
Moving forward as partners
We are delighted to become a member of the Digital Public Goods Alliance. We see this as a logical extension of our existing commitments, as well as our long-standing values and goals. We are excited to partner with the alliance and other members to amplify and extend the reach of digital public goods to all of planet Earth.