We often hear stories about how big enterprises are leveraging the benefits of open source; what we don’t hear so much is how average people are benefiting from it. Benjamin Kerensa is an open source developer who was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) in May this year.
One of the first things any diabetic patient needs to do, as Kerensa told me, is to start monitoring and tracking your glucose. “Many of us carry around meters, lancets, etc and are tracking our blood sugar throughout the day. These devices are rather dull and not very great at visualizing data and are entirely closed,” he said.
As an open source developer he looked around for open source apps or tools to do the job; he didn’t find any. It’s quite uncomfortable to learn that the software or devices your life depends on are closed, you can’t see the source code of the things your life relies on.
And he is not alone. Karen Sandler, the Executive Director of the Software Freedom Conservancy, was diagnosed with a heart condition and has to use a pacemaker. She once told in an interview, “My life relies on the proper functioning of software every day, and I have no confidence that it will. The FDA generally doesn’t review the source code of medical devices nor can the public. But multiple researchers have shown that these devices can be maliciously hacked, with fatal consequences.”
When Kerensa didn’t find any open source mobile or desktop apps he set out to do what open source empowers people like him to do – write your own open source app. He created an app called Glucosio to track and monitor his glucose level from different devices.
The source code of the application is hosted on Github. Kerensa said, “Our mobile apps use entirely open source libraries; the code is there. Most of it we have written, aside from the graphing, which is an open source external Android library.”
The software is currently in an early stage of development. “We are almost ready to release our first Glucosio for Android Alpha and our iOS app is also underway too,” Kerensa said.
The project is looking for contributions and being open source it’s extremely easy to contribute at any level.
According to Diabetes.org, in 2012 over 29.1 million Americans (that’s 9.3% of the population) had diabetes. Chances are, you know someone who has diabetes and you can help them by supporting an open source project that they can trust. If you are a developer, contribute to improve the code; you can help with documentation, or language so it can be translated.
That’s the only way any open source project succeeds – through collaboration and contribution; through people.