INDIANAPOLIS AND BOSTON, MARCH 23 — OpenMRS, an Indianapolis-based free software platform for Health IT in the developing world, has received the 2012 Free Software Award for Projects of Social Benefit. The award was announced on March 23 at the Free Software Foundation’s annual LibrePlanet conference held at Harvard University, and is presented each year by the foundation to a project that best applies the ideas of the free software movement to intentionally and significantly benefit humanity. Award winners in previous years include Wikipedia, Creative Commons, and the Internet Archive.
The OpenMRS project began in 2004 as a collaboration between Indianapolis-based Regenstrief Institute and Boston-based Partners In Health. Both organizations were working to improve delivery of health care in the developing world, and joined forces to start building a platform to provide electronic medical records for clinics and hospitals. The first deployment of OpenMRS was at the USAID-AMPATH Partnership’s clinic in Eldoret, Kenya, and the software was rapidly adopted by additional individuals and organizations providing health care services in resource-poor settings. Contributors to the project have increased significantly since then with the support of partners organizations and individual volunteers, and OpenMRS is now in use throughout the world.
Because the platform is free software, it can be fully customized and improved upon by those implementing it, and those improvements shared with others. The community has built a model of economic development in which a network of technologists throughout the developing world serves individual clinicians, aid organizations, and government agencies to deploy health information systems to improve the quality of healthcare delivered to people who need it most.
“Receiving this award is a humbling recognition of the hard work and passion of countless volunteers and partner organizations over the last decade,” said Paul Biondich, OpenMRS president and project leader. “We’re extremely grateful to the Free Software Foundation for recognizing the important and valuable work of our community, and hope that our efforts might serve as an example of how free software can be a disruptive innovation that improves and saves lives.”
The Free Software Foundation, founded in 1985, is dedicated to promoting computer users’ right to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer programs. The FSF promotes the development and use of free (as in freedom) software — particularly the GNU operating system and its GNU/Linux variants — and free documentation for free software. The FSF also helps to spread awareness of the ethical and political issues of freedom in the use of software, and its Web sites, located at fsf.org and gnu.org, are an important source of information about GNU/Linux. Its headquarters are in Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
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