Six months ago we launched the OpenWallet Foundation (OWF) as a new open source project, hosted by the Linux Foundation Europe, to foster global collaboration on the core components for interoperable digital wallets. The launch marked the culmination of a year-long germination process bringing together 37 founding member organizations (4 premier, 11 general and 22 non-profits) and over 300 people already participating in the community.
Today we announced that Google has joined us in this mission as our newest premier member. We want to take this opportunity to thank all our stakeholders for the tremendous support they have provided over the past year and also to reflect on our next steps forward.
It all starts with our roots – an open community
Communities are the most essential component of open source projects. The Linux Foundation (LF) has a three-decade long reputation for leadership in open source software and community development. Starting from the well-known Linux Kernel, LF has become home to over 900 open source software projects of all types and sizes. Some, like Kubernetes and Automotive Grade Linux, you may be using every day without knowing it.
OWF has benefited significantly from LF’s rich experience, wide connections and mature frameworks, plus the generous feedback and encouragement we have received from other LF projects. At the same time, we recognize that OWF is a unique project with an ambitious mission that requires us to break ground on multiple fronts to make it as open and collaborative as possible. Our starting point is a commitment to building a fully open community, meaning:
- Anyone can participate. The OWF community started before the official launch of the project and played an important role in its formation. While OWF, like many other LF projects, has paid levels of membership to fund the initiative, it is not required for participation in OWF as a whole or within any parts of the community.
- Anyone can contribute code. The goal of OWF is to host a collection of software components that can be used as building blocks upon which anyone can construct their own digital wallet software. Each project is a separate community and code base that works towards this objective in its own way. Anyone, whether affiliated with a particular company or not, can apply to contribute a code project to the OWF. Projects write their own charters and specify their own governance. Typically this involves setting overall expectations for the project, determining rules and roles for maintainers who decide which code to merge, and agreeing on how the roadmap will be forged. Communities can also decide to leave the OWF if they choose.
- Anyone can use the code. All OWF code is available free of charge. There is no need to ask for approval. Just go to our GitHub and get started. The default license for our projects is Apache 2.0, meaning anyone can reuse code for anything with no restrictions. Projects may also choose to use other Open Source Initiative (OSI)-approved licenses if they desire.
- Anyone can contribute to other community activities. Outside of the code projects, we also have community special interest groups and task forces which don’t involve code development, but focus on addressing related issues that help inform code projects and facilitate collaborations. These groups operate completely in the open, with mailing lists, chat channels, meeting recordings and community documentation all publicly viewable.
Governing the OWF to enable community success
Empowering our constituent communities requires good governance at the Foundation level. We have marshaled tools and templates from the LF to put the following governance in place:
The Governing Board
Thanks to the leadership of OWF founder Daniel Goldscheider and the support of the worldwide digital wallet community, we were able to secure a wonderful group of initial sponsors who were instrumental in making the OWF a reality. Representatives from these sponsors form the governing board that sets the overall direction of OWF. This board is also responsible for setting the budget, maintaining the fiscal health of the organization, hiring the Executive Director, and monitoring our progress towards our core objectives. The governing board does not direct any of the community activities or otherwise become involved in any of the individual code projects.
Each premier sponsor is represented by a seat on the governing board; each group of 10 general sponsors elects a member as well. Because they are all direct stakeholders in the success of OWF, they have a voice in major decisions and expenditures of the organization. They also provide our leadership team a valuable resource for guidance and advice.
The Technical Advisory Committee
The Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) is responsible for deciding which code projects should be admitted to the foundation and monitoring each project’s progress through the project lifecycle. Having a well-defined project lifecycle process with clear milestones supports realistic roadmap planning and helps everyone in the wider community understand the maturity level of a particular project.
The TAC is composed of one representative from each OWF premier member and one representative from each “Impact” project. In addition, there are up to two “at large” community members that are voted in by the TAC on a yearly basis. This hybrid approach is used by a number of similar LF projects, such as the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), to help balance both short- and long-term views. It also serves to blend the narrow focus of individual projects with the broad vision of the foundation as a whole.
The TAC’s job is to do anything it can to make life easier for code projects. However it is not responsible for project roadmaps, does not decide project governance, and in general does not get involved in the day-to-day activities of projects.
The Governmental Advisory Council
While most LF projects do not include a Government Advisory Council (GAC), it was integral to the OWF charter due to the critical role the public sector plays in developing digital wallet infrastructures and regulations. The GAC serves as a means for public officials and intergovernmental organizations to provide feedback on OWF’s direction, principles, and projects. It is also a vehicle for exploring cross-border and cross-sector collaborative opportunities. The GAC Chair, elected by the public officials, participates in the governing board as an observer.
The Leadership Team
We are very fortunate that Daniel Goldscheider, without whose bold vision and relentless efforts the OWF may never have happened, agreed to become our inaugural Executive Director. Daniel has in turn assembled an initial team of talented, experienced professionals to lead the OWF and serve the community and stakeholders from the onset. We hope to see this team grow along with the OWF.
Our next set of challenges
Having gained some initial traction, what are our next set of key objectives?
Civil Society Engagement
As the world becomes increasingly digital, digital wallets will become as integral and essential to our lives as smartphones and browsers. This makes OWF’s mission of developing an open source bedrock for interoperable digital wallets even more urgent and important.
But how will we know we are doing it right? As technologists, how do we know we are building core wallet components that can address the very wide variety of needs of people all over the world? What are the mistakes we can’t afford to make because of the potential harms they may cause to certain individuals or populations? As a membership-based and community-driven organization building critical technology, how can we best align the commercial interests of our corporate and community members and political interests of governmental stakeholders with the broader social and economic interests of organizations and people that may not be sufficiently represented in our community?
With these questions and more in mind, it is a high priority for us to proactively engage with civil society groups who have vast experience in advocating for responsible, inclusive technology. Our aim is to form ongoing, mutually-beneficial relationships that will ensure our community and projects take advantage of their expertise and are informed of their feedback and concerns.
Code Contribution and Collaboration
Forming a collection of independent code projects that can be selected from and pieced together to serve as building blocks for digital wallets is an audacious goal. Having received two more contributions in August from the Modular Open Source Identity Platform (MOSIP), we continuously work to build a great pipeline of potential code projects and contributors. Even with open doors to participation, project self-governance, and administrative support, there may still be other questions. We will do our best to respond, share market insights, and give any other support and feedback that is helpful. We want every prospective project to make a well-informed decision regarding whether OWF is the best home.
Once a project is accepted, our next most important objective is to foster meaningful collaboration with other projects. A world-class collection of core building blocks for wallets simply will not be possible without it. We will work closely with maintainers and contributors to help them realize the maximum synergy from working together.
Stakeholder and Market Alignment
If you have read to this point, you have a sense of the wide range of stakeholders with whom the OWF must engage and align to be successful. As essential as this is, with a wide open community of self-organized projects, committees, task forces, and special interest groups, this won’t be easy. Our team is ready to embrace different opinions and difficult conversations. We will do our best to build common ground.
Externally, we face a quickly evolving market and fierce competition with others tirelessly pursuing their own wallet agendas without a shared community mentality. How do we help our projects stay relevant and competitive in the process of creating wallet building blocks that will have real market impact? This is what keeps us up at night.
Together we can truly achieve “open”
In summary, at OWF we define “open” as:
- Having governance in place that enables diverse voices—those most relevant to the success of our organization and community—be represented and heard;
- Having effective mechanisms for decentralized bottom-up decision-making at all levels of the organization and community;
- Having a leadership team that is open-minded and determined to incorporate the voices and views of all stakeholders big and small;
- Being transparent about how we are governed and operate;
- Being honest about our weaknesses and challenges;
- Being open to feedback and criticism.
These are the values to which we are committed. But we can only be successful if you — like-minded visionaries and practitioners — join forces with us to make it happen. Together we can create a truly great, truly open collection of building blocks for wallets.
Let us know how we can help you with your open wallet journey! You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marie Austenaa (Governing Board Chair)
Tracy Kuhrt (Technical Advisory Committee Chair)
Daniel Goldscheider (Executive Director)