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New OpenLMIS Public-Private Partnership for Open Source Sustainability

By Guest Writer on March 17, 2021

OpenLMIS Public-Private Partnership

OpenLMIS is looking toward the future. After launching in 2012 in two countries, OpenLMIS has grown to serve over 11,000 health facilities across 9 African countries. Now our vision is only getting bigger; as we embark on a new partnership with Vitalliance.

OpenLMIS was founded on the principle of cross-sector collaboration for a scalable and sustainable logistics solution that would create healthier communities around the globe. We knew finding the right partner to steward the future of OpenLMIS was crucial not only to maintain and grow OpenLMIS as a global good, but also to remain true to the collaborative nature upon which it was built.

OpenLMIS Transition

This is why we chose a partner with a commitment to our mission and vision and a strong worldwide reputation in global health supply chains to maintain the OpenLMIS software and the community at a global level. This new public-private partnership with Vitalliance leverages radical collaboration to expand upon the quality of our services and our impact.

“Vitalliance provides a clear path for OpenLMIS implementations to receive high quality technical support and adapt their services as countries grow in maturity. They also are approaching this partnership with an alignment of our existing OpenLMIS community values.” Kelly Hamblin, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, OpenLMIS donor

Vitalliance is a joint venture between Imperial, one of the largest logistics providers in Africa serving 20 countries on the continent, and U.S.-based One Network Enterprises, a leading global provider of supply chain control towers, which give users real-time data to drive supply chain efficiency.  This public-private partnership will marry and accelerate industry best practices, while also making OpenLMIS more sustainable as a global public good and less reliant on donor funding.

Please attend our Partnership Launch Event to learn more on March 31st at 11am EST / 5pm SAST, hosted by Digital Square.

Vitalliance Transition Benefits

openlmis

This partnership will accelerate OpenLMIS’ impact to strengthen public health supply chains in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), enhance its software capabilities, expand its reach to more African countries, and gain access to advanced technologies such as intelligent control towers.

Vitalliance brings strong technical capabilities to continue our global level work of managing the product roadmap, continuing to add new features to OpenLMIS, listening to our users, and sharing resources and experiences through our Community.

Vitalliance is committed to maintaining OpenLMIS as an Open Source public good, as well as providing ongoing core support. Some feature expansion will be enabled through Vitalliance and its partners, so that OpenLMIS will continue to grow and respond to evolving user needs, and move away from its reliance on donor funding.

Some of the benefits from this partnership include:

  • Access to additional software features
  • Opportunities to engage with new users in new geographies
  • A stronger OpenLMIS Community
  • Access to aggregated data for better planning and logistics
  • Ability to grow sustainably with dedicated private sector funding
  • Deeper integration with other ecosystems such as hospital information systems (HIS), regulatory systems, and global platforms
  • New service tiers that offer rich capabilities and services that will further its ability to reduce stockout rates and enable health workers to focus on patient care

As partners we will use our shared vision to transform and digitize health supply chains in LMICs. Together, we aim to increase use of OpenLMIS across the globe among governments and non-governmental organizations to achieve greater impact and improve the health of communities everywhere.

“OpenLMIS is excited to begin this next phase of supply chain evolution with Vitalliance and the management expertise they bring from Imperial and One Network. Their alignment with our community values and vision promise a strong and sustainable future.” Brian Taliesin, OpenLMIS Director

Throughout the remainder of 2021 the stewardship of OpenLMIS will gradually transition to Vitalliance who will maintain and grow the core software at the global level. Because we built OpenLMIS alongside users and partners, they will remain vital to enhancing and growing the digital solution. And country implementers will continue managing the day-to-day operations of OpenLMIS for their country’s public health system.

We know transition takes time and patience, and we remain committed to our users throughout transition and beyond. We believe in the long-term sustainability of open source projects, and believe this strategic partnership will enable OpenLMIS, and the communities it serves, to thrive for many years to come. Stay tuned for further updates on our website to see how our transition is shaping the future of the OpenLMIS software and community.

OpenLMIS Transition FAQs:

Any change for current OpenLMIS implementers?

OpenLMIS guarantees continued services to Ministry of Health users. Users can expect software maintenance and technical improvements over time. Technical support is not going away, and the software will remain Open Source and operational. This partnership is an opportunity to further engage and expand current implementations.

Will it remain Open Source and freely available?

Yes, Vitalliance has committed to maintaining OpenLMIS as an Open Source public good that can be accessed via Github at no cost.

Will the transition shift in priorities for OpenLMIS?

Vitalliance interests are aligned with those of OpenLMIS and its users. Vitalliance has been chosen because of its dedication to supporting new and existing implementations. OpenLMIS’ top priority has always been and will continue to be supporting governments and their public health supply chains.

Can current partners participate in OpenLMIS Community?

Yes! The current OpenLMIS Community will continue to work together to build the future of OpenLMIS. Some of the names of the committees and OpenLMIS core team members may change, but the key function of community engagement will continue. User voices will continue to be represented through a Key User Group.

What is the transition timeframe?

The transition will be gradual over the next year from March 2021 to March 2022, with hands-on participation and coaching from the current OpenLMIS team.

By Rebecca Alban, MPH, OpenLMIS Community Manager

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10 Comments to “New OpenLMIS Public-Private Partnership for Open Source Sustainability”

  1. Wayan Vota says:

    This announcement makes me wonder about three things that I’ll make as separate comments.

    1. While giving OpenLMIS to a private company seems to remove the burden of maintenance, support, and enhancement from the original developers, so reduces ongoing costs, I don’t see where those developers received any compensation for transferring these assets to the private company. One reason this transfer happened (to my knowledge) is that one firm was investing in the software, while another was reaping the rewards via implementation contracts. This transfer doesn’t look to give any return to that development group, who still seem to be negative ROI on their OpenLMIS investment.

    • Wayan, valuing the contributions, both money invested and time volunteered, absolutely should be considered in the case where the power to change the license is ceded to a private entity that could unilaterally benefit from that value. I think in this case though we are probably looking at a cost center rather than a profit center. But hey, at the IPO will certainly want a cut!

    • Brian Taliesin says:

      There certainly is a lot of collaboration required to achieve scalable, sustainable, accessible, and interoperable digital health global goods! From when OpenLMIS started as an idea over a decade ago, there has been significant energy and expertise contributed by the donors, developers, and implementing partners. Looking back, we saw silo’d supply chain systems and duplicative investments. At that point we weren’t discussing an ROI, but rather how might we achieve a shared benefit through shared investment. Looking ahead, OpenLMIS will still need and value the strong network of country implementing partners.

  2. Wayan Vota says:

    2. What is in it for the private company? They now take on the cost burden of investing in the OpenLMIS community and software, but where is their ROI? Per point 1, there still is a financial imballance between developers and implementers, where all the real donor funding is with the latter. That makes me think the private company will do the bare minimum to keep OpenLMIS alive, but then put real investment into proprietary extensions on which they can charge a premium.

    • This is important. And again, cost centers vs profit centers. In open source you loose the ability to profit from license fees (exception of dual license and proprietary modules) but you still have it in value added services. As the trend in making money from software increasingly has moved away from licensing towards services (hosting + implementation + support) or another revenue stream built on top of the platform (payment fees + transport fees), then maintaining the core software is a cost center. In private enterprises, it is the acceptable cost necessary to derive the profit. The promise of open source to commercial players has always been that by ceding control of areas where they don’t have a competitive advantage to a community, they can delegate the costs, and theoretically improve the quality. Though in this case as you point out they are signing up for the maintenance costs. There already was an open source community and there was nothing stopping a group like Vitalliance, or any number of other private sector players for that matter, from building value on top of it and contributing back only at will as a good open source citizen. This article does not share detail on the future of the open source license and who will be the license holder. To me, regardless of how this evolves, this will be a case study on how, or how not to, catalyze private sector involvement in maintaining open source global goods.

      • Josh Zamor says:

        Rest assured that no change to the license is occurring for the OpenLMIS services. Nor is there a change in “ownership”. The role of the stewards has been to gather the community for the benefit of the community (e.g. the routine development sprints, committee groups, etc). The future shape of how that’s carried out is TBD, and it’s part of what will be shaped in the transition period.

  3. Wayan Vota says:

    3. Did the OpenLMIS community just create a new competitor? One reason I can see a private company taking on this project is to use OpenLMIS community and contacts as a way to enter into the supply chain market – with OpenLMIS quals and it or OpenLMIS+proprietary solution. While this might suit the aims of donors and governments, it would be quite harmful to the organizations who created OpenLMIS and all organizations who support Global Goods.

    • Brian Taliesin says:

      In my opinion OpenLMIS is moving to the next stage of maturity by partnering with private sector to benefit from the sustainability and capabilities that they can offer. Like Android, Linux and many other open source projects, we are bringing in additional organizations to support our joint efforts around global goods. It will take philanthropy, aid/development funding, public and private partners all playing roles to serve global health broadly and health supply chains specifically.

  4. Scott Russpatrick says:

    This is a very interesting case-study that many are following, so it’s very nice to see an update. Of course it begs some additional questions:
    1. What’s in this for Vitalliance and Imperium? What are their objectives?
    2. How does Vitalliance and Imperium plan to make money by acquiring openLMIS?
    3. Does the new owner see opportunities to implement openLMIS in more developed markets?
    4. Why keep it open source? It’s it even useful to remain open-source? Are you going to allow external code commitments?

    • Josh Zamor says:

      Hi Scott, on that last question, the answer is yes and yes: it’ll remain open-source and external contributions will still be welcomed as always.